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An Evolution Rather than a Revolution: Cannabis Legalization Implementation from the Perspective of the Police in Washington State

NCJ Number
Justice Evaluation Journal Volume: 0 Issue: 0 Dated: 2020 Pages: 1-27
Date Published
27 pages

This article reports on an evaluation of the effects of cannabis legalization on crime and law enforcement in Washington State, one of the first states to adopt it, in 2012.


The evaluation examined how the police view legalization and how they experienced its implementation. Appreciative Inquiry was employed in nine focus group interviews of 48 officers from multiple agencies in Washington. The findings indicate that officers in Washington, although not supportive of re-criminalization, expressed concerns about youth access and use; increases in drugged driving; prosecutorial reluctance to charge; nuisance calls about cannabis usage in public; the lack of police preparation for legalization; and legalization’s effect on their workload. Because of the recent nature of legalization, there is little research on how those charged with its implementation (the police) feel about it. Their concerns might inform the policy of other states that have undertaken the responsibility of legalizing cannabis. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2020