Report: Most Police Officers Support Relaxed Marijuana Laws

Law enforcement leadership for years were on the side of tighter marijuana laws. But now, it seems there may have been a substantial shift. police lights

A recent poll of 8,000 officers by the Pew Research Center finds that almost two-thirds of them believe marijuana should be legal for either medical or personal use.

This was a survey that was nationally representative, which mean it took into account a myriad of factors of police demographics. It was also one of the largest surveys of its kind ever conducted.

According to the report, a third of officers said cannabis should be legal for both recreational and medicinal use, while 37 percent opined it should only be allowed if someone needs it as medicine. Thirty percent said marijuana shouldn’t be legal whatsoever. 

Still, police are more conservative than most on the issue. In a poll querying all Americans, it was decided that almost 50 percent supported legalizing the drug for recreational use, while 35 percent said they supported it only for medicine. Fifteen percent of the general public said the drug shouldn’t be legal.

However, among law enforcement, there was a generational divide too – similar to what we see with the general public. Pew discovered that police officers under the age of 35 were more likely to support marijuana for recreation (37 percent) than those officers between the ages of 50 and 60 (27 percent). Within the general public, those numbers are at about 67 percent/ 45 percent, respectively.

Historically, law enforcement groups have been among those who most fiercely oppose laws that would legalize marijuana. Last year, these law enforcement groups were small in number, but they were powerful in terms of significant contributions that served to undercut marijuana legalization in California and Arizona. These groups noted things like impaired driving and marijuana use by minors are key platform issues.

One vocal group we heard a lot from last year was the Association for Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputies. The president of that organization commented publicly numerous times in the lead up to the November election, noting that while people view marijuana as less harmful than alcohol, there was no question that it resulted in impairment of faculties.

That in itself may be a legitimate point, but there are some law enforcement organizations comprised of active-duty and retired officers who are vocal about the numerous failures of the War on Drugs. Representatives of that group note that law enforcement personnel are still being trained with materials that are drug-war-oriented, outdated and not scientific. Still, the newest poll still shows that 1 in 3 officers believe marijuana should be legal – and that’s a substantial shift.

The poll was conducted prior to the election, between May and August of last year. The respondents included local police and sheriff’s officers (not including state law enforcement agencies).

As one Rolling Stone article noted, officers may have good reason to want to see marijuana legalized. Those include:

  • Public safety. With less of the drug on the black market, that’s fewer dollars in the pockets of dangerous cartels and gangs.
  • They want to focus on real crimes with real victims. Marijuana accounted for more than 7 million arrests in the last 10 years, and nearly 90 percent of those were for possession. This policy had a far greater impact on black citizens, and many police officers could see their resources and skills were being wasted.
  • Police want to form stronger relationships with the community. They aren’t going to do that when they are arresting people constantly arresting people for low-level marijuana crimes.

If you have been arrested for marijuana in L.A., our experienced marijuana lawyers can help.

The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.

Additional Resources:

How do cops feel about changing marijuana laws? New survey, Jan. 11, 2017, By Christopher Ingraham, The Washington Post

More Blog Entries:

California Pot Dispensaries Seek Sleeker Look, Jan. 16, 2017, L.A. Marijuana Lawyer Blog