The largest police force in Vermont is reporting that traffic searches are down 70% since the state legalized marijuana.
A report from the Burlington Police Department set to be released in late July 2019 will detail the declining searches, which law enforcement officials are attributing to the fact that possession of up to 1 ounce, or 28.35 grams, of cannabis became legal for adults in summer 2018. According to a report from Burlington CBS affiliate WCAX-TV, data show that traffic searches plummeted for individuals of all races.
On July 30, 2019, the Burlington Board of Police Commissioners will meet to discuss the report and its implications.
Dave Silberman, an attorney and pro bono drug policy reform advocate from Middlebury, told Marijuana Moment that Vermont's reputation as a progressive state hasn't squared with racial disparities in policing, noting a 2017 study that showed black and Hispanic drivers were “more likely to be pulled over than white drivers” and “four times as likely to have their cars searched as white drivers who've been pulled over.”
“Thus, it's immensely gratifying to see that, one year after possession and personal cultivation of cannabis were legalized, Vermont's largest police force searched 70% fewer drivers than in the year before legalization,” Silberman said. “We've taken away the pretextual excuse that cannabis possession gave police officers to harass drivers of color, and as a direct result, fewer drivers of color are being harassed.
“These racial disparities were widespread, and found even in police departments with progressive leaders who are genuinely trying to eliminate systemic racism from within, as is the case with the Burlington Police Department,” he added. “This new data shows how important it is for us to keep pushing for drug policy and broader criminal justice reform statewide, and to proactively take away the tools of oppression, rather than waiting for police departments — no matter how well-intentioned — to reform themselves.”
The Vermont city's experience is consistent with those of other states that have legalized cannabis. In Colorado and Washington, traffic stops dropped by about 50% in the years after the states implemented commercial marijuana markets for adults in 2012, according to a 2017 analysis.
And while fewer traffic stops for simple cannabis possession — and importantly an accompanying reduction in racially disparate enforcement practices — is viewed as a positive development from a civil liberties perspective, it could also be helping law enforcement prioritize more serious crimes.
A 2018 study found that as marijuana possession arrests declined in legal states, police started making more arrests for violent and property crime.
Feature image: A year after Vermont legalized adult-use cannabis in 2018, police in Burlington, the state's largest city, recorded a 70% reduction in traffic stops. (Photo via Shutterstock)
This article was republished from Marijuana Moment under a content syndication agreement. Read the original article here.