A recently published study focused on traffic stops by police in Colorado and Washington found that states experienced a striking decrease in vehicle searches after cannabis legalization.
“After marijuana use was legalized, Colorado and Washington saw dramatic drops in search rates,” according to the study conducted by the Open Policing Project at Stanford University. Researchers believed that because the bulk of searches begin with drug-related suspicion, legalizing marijuana drastically lowered the overall number of searches by taking away the largest proponent of probable cause.
The study excludes searches that take place after an arrest, meaning the data centered on the decision-making of officers in traffic stop situations.
If this trend continues in other states that have legalized cannabis, it will be interesting to see how law enforcement divisions cope with the sudden blow to their search volume. For example, in Massachusetts, the changing legal climate surrounding cannabis is forcing the state to retire an entire generation of K-9 officers that can’t be untrained to detect the scent of marijuana.
For those at home wondering why traffic searches are…