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Frequently Asked Questions Crime, Cannabis, and Police
General Questions:

What are the research goals surrounding Cannabis, Crime, and Police (CCP)?

  • To determine the effect of marijuana legalization on public safety through the description and explanation of why agencies responded to legalization in specific ways, acknowledging that there may be different causal pathways for various agencies in order to ensure the well-being of the public.

How will CCP research investigate the effect of marijuana legalization on public safety?

  • CCP research will document how law enforcement agency policies and officer behavior have changed as a result of recreational marijuana legalization, and will determine how crime level variations reflect changes in policing practices as a result of the 2012 drug law reform.

Why is CCP research focusing on how police are addressing crime following state recreational marijuana legalization?

  • Previous research as yet to address how state and local law enforcement agencies have modified their practices since the state legalization of marijuana. In addition, there is limited research pertaining to police organizational resource reallocation due in part to the small number of pivotal policy changes (e.g., legalization of recreational marijuana) that have required a reversal in police organizational practice. Therefore, CCP analysis will examine this noteworthy research gap and document findings for the benefit of several other states and countries, which are contemplating recreational marijuana law reform.

Why is it important to document how law enforcement agencies and officers have changed as a result of recreational marijuana legalization?

  • There are few large policy changes in U.S. history that have directly affected day-to-day operations in police agencies. CCP research goals include determining how recreational marijuana legalization policy is being practiced and what those practices mean for the assessment of law enforcement resources and public safety. Policy and practice greatly impact the general public, as well as those responsible for applying the law.

Why is CCP research being conducted in Washington State and surrounding rural, urban, and tribal areas?

  • Washington is one of the first two states to implement a recreational marijuana law (i.e., I-502). The lessons learned and data collected by law enforcement agencies and their officers before and after legalization are instrumental to CCP research goals.

What is the recreational marijuana law in Washington State?

  • Initiative (I-502)

What is initiative (I-502)?

What were the proposed benefits of I-502?

  • It was expected that legalization would increase tax revenues, reduce crime and correctional populations –specifically for people of color–, focus limited law enforcement resources on serious crimes, increase respect for law enforcement, and provide legal protection for medical marijuana use (Ellison, 2012, New Approach Washington, 2012; Walker, 2011).

What were the proposed side effects of I-502?

  • Marijuana legalization might increase marijuana use by minors, heighten the incidence of drug-impaired driving, and not yield the benefits expected in revenue or crime reductions as suggested by proponents of I-502 (Ellison, 2012).

How have communities been affected since I-502 passage and implementation?

  • In short, CCP research expects to be able to address the impact of I-502 at various levels, including individual-level officer behavior and organizational culture. Moreover, the project will examine these effects across a diverse set of communities and in states and regions where marijuana is legal in contrast to those where it is prohibited. Individual, organizational and situational data will be utilized to address national and international interest.

How does the federal government view state government legalization of marijuana?

  • The U.S. federal government has declared that it is “reserving judgment” on the early marijuana legalization adoption states in order to determine its consequences on public health and safety.

What is the Cole Memorandum?

The “Cole Memorandum” (DOJ, 2013) addresses the differences between state and federal laws on marijuana. Eight specific priorities were outlined, including:

  • No sales made to minors
  • No cross-boundary transportation
  • Non-use of federal grounds or facilities
  • Prevention of penetration of organized crime into the legal sales business
  • No use of the federally-regulated banking systems
  • Prevention of drugged driving or heightening of other adverse public health consequences associated with marijuana use

What is the Controlled Substances Act (CSA)?

  • The CSA regulates and categorizes substances that have been regulated under existing federal laws. This act offers some legal tenets for prosecuting the production, transport, sale, and possession of controlled/uncontrolled substances. This act also categorizes controlled/uncontrolled substances into five sections based on a substance’s medical use, potential for abuse, and safety or dependence liability.

What is Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP)?

  • According to the WSIPP mission statement they, “carry out practical, non-partisan research at the direction of the legislature or the Board of Directors. WSIPP works closely with legislators, legislative and state agency staff, and experts in the field to ensure that studies answer relevant policy questions. Fiscal and administrative services for WSIPP are provided the Evergreen State College.”

What is the NIJ grant?

  • “NIJ funds physical and social science research, development and evaluation projects about criminal justice through competitive solicitations. The focus of the solicitations varies from year to year based on research priorities and available funding.” (National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, 2016)

General questions for academics or those interested in funding/investing in CCP research:

Who is involved with the CCP research?

  • Besides our members listed on the research team page, the project involves the Complex Social Interactions (CSI) lab, the Washington State University Department of Criminal Justice & Criminology (DCJC), and the Division of Government Studies and Services (DGSS), which has support from Washington State research organizations including the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) and the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC).

Which agencies will the CCP research be working with?

  • Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department
  • Moscow Police Department
  • Pullman Police Department
  • Spokane Police Department
  • Spokane County Sheriff’s Department
  • Suquamish Tribal Police Department
  • Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (WAPA)
  • Washington Association of Sheriffs & Police Chiefs (WASPC)
  • Washington State Institute for Public Policy  (WSIPP)
  • Washington State Patrol
  • Washington State University Police Department
  • Quad City Drug Task Force (Lewiston, Clarkston, Moscow, Pullman)

How is CCP research different from the work of Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP)?

  • Though WSIPP is currently engaged in a long-term evaluation of the impact of legalization on crime, our analysis is not a duplicate effort and instead should be viewed as a complementary analysis. Currently, WSIPP is not tasked with exploring the impact on police practices, nor are they responsible for examining the effects of legalization on border regions, which CCP analysis will address.

What is the expected duration of CCP research?

  • CCP research will be conducted over the next three years (2017-2020).

How will research be presented to the public?

  • We will be submitting data sets generated by this research to NIJ, which will have them available for public review. Research results will be presented at the annual meetings of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, American Society of Criminology, International Association of Chiefs of Police, and other appropriate conferences that include the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) and the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC). We also expect to do outreach with media outlets in the state and nationally.