Marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington state has “produced some demonstrable and persistent benefit” to police departments’ ability to solve other types of crime, according to researchers at Washington State University.
To isolate the effects of legalization, the researchers looked at how the trends in clearance changed after the implementation of marijuana legalization in November 2012 in Colorado and December 2012 for Washington. While recreational markets in these states didn’t open until 2014, provisions allowing for personal possession and use took effect shortly after the votes were certified.
The researchers stress, however, that the data can’t prove conclusively that legalization directly caused the changes in clearance rates. There could have been other changes to policing in those states during that time period, such as increased use of overtime hours, the implementation of new policing strategies or a more aggressive focus on certain types of crime.
Advocates for legalization have frequently argued that freeing police from the burden of low-level marijuana enforcement would allow them to devote resources to more serious crimes. The Washington State researchers say their findings support this idea: “Our results suggest that, just as marijuana legalization proponents argued, the legalization of marijuana influenced police outcomes, which in the context of this article is modeled as improvements in clearance rates.”