Cops aren’t exactly who you’d expect to be in support of legal weed, but a survey published in early 2017 suggests law enforcement attitudes towards cannabis are changing. Pew Research Center found that two-thirds of cops favor the legalization of marijuana.
The survey was conducted online May 19- Aug. 14, 2016 with almost 8,000 police officers in local police and sheriff’s departments. The departments surveyed all contained at least 100 sworn officers.
Two-Thirds of Cops Support Marijuana Legalization
The survey was one of the largest of its kind to date, and while those in law enforcement aren’t exactly rallying for the legalization of pot, more support it now than ever before. The Pew Research Center survey found that 37 percent of cops thought marijuana should be legal for medical use, while 32 percent thought it should be legal for recreational and medical use. Only 30 percent believed it should remain illegal.
The survey also showed that cops who support recreational weed are part of the younger generation of law enforcement. Those under the age of 35 favored full legalization the most. It was the older generation on the force who most opposed legalization. Only 27 percent of officers between 50-60 said they supported both recreational and medical marijuana.
Cops are typically the most conservative when it comes to legalization of marijuana. According to Diane Goldstein, retired Lieutenant Commander for the Redondo Beach Police Department, this is because “law enforcement continues to represent an outlier view on this issue because police are trained with outdated, unscientific, drug-war oriented materials.”
A “Positive Attitude Shift” Supported By Changing Policies
The survey which was published just a year ago highlights that 1 in 3 police officers now favor the legalization of marijuana. Goldstein adds that numbers like these “reflect a positive attitude shift” in police officers who think marijuana should be legal.
And while this isn’t yet the case across the board, it’s something. If the changing attitudes of cops are reflective of the changing attitudes of marijuana legalization across the nation, we might soon be living in a world where majority rules when it comes to the support of legal cannabis.
Cops in Favor of Marijuana Legalization Speak Out
Of the cops who support marijuana legalization, many are outspoken about the way they feel. Baltimore narcotics veteran Neil Franklin believes that the pervasiveness of marijuana arrests, notably in colored communities, creates a “hostile environment” between cops and the communities they serve.
“Marijuana is the number one reason right now that police use to search people in this country. The odor of marijuana alone gives police officers probable cause to search you, your person, your car, or your home,” Franklin says. “(Legalizing marijuana could lead to) hundreds of thousands of fewer negative police and citizen contacts across this country. That’s a hell of an opportunity for law enforcement to rebuild some bridges in our communities – mainly our poor, black and Latino communities.”
Rebuilding the bridges that have been burned in these communities wouldn’t happen overnight, but legalizing marijuana could have a tremendous impact. In a country where blacks are roughly eight times more likely to be arrested than whites for marijuana possession, legalizing marijuana might finally put an end to this madness that has permeated the nations for decades.
Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper believes it’s possible. He thinks that legalizing marijuana could allow police officers “to see young adults not as criminals, but of members of their community.” Stamper also noted that marijuana legalization would enable police to start respecting these young citizens civil liberties.
With two-thirds of cops in support of marijuana legalization, perhaps this is a future we will one day see.