Cops Less Likely to Search Drivers Following Marijuana Legalization

NEW YORK, NY — Police are less likely to initiate searches for drugs or weapons during a traffic stop following the enactment of adult use marijuana laws, according to an analysis conducted by The Marshall Project and the Center for Investigative Reporting.

Researchers analyzed the frequency of traffic stop-related searches conducted by Colorado and Washington state patrols before and after the enactment of cannabis legalization.

Authors reported a significant reduction in searches in both jurisdictions following legalization, but cautioned that African Americans and Hispanics are still disproportionately searched compared to whites.

In Colorado, the rate of traffic stop-related searches fell 49 percent for African Americans, 60 percent for Hispanics, and 62 percent for whites following legalization. However, blacks remain more than three-times as likely as whites to be searched.

In Washington, the rate of traffic stop-related searches fell 34 percent for African Americans, 25 percent for Hispanics, and 25 percent for whites post-legalization. Nonetheless, blacks remain approximately twice as likely as whites to be subjected to a search by police.

“[R]emoving marijuana possession from the potential list of crimes lowers the chance that a car will be stopped and searched,” authors concluded.

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