National Institute of Justice

Measuring the Criminal Justice System Impacts of Marijuana Legalization and Decriminalization Using State Data (July 2019) details a National Institute of Justice (NIJ)- and Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)-funded research project designed to analyze the impact of marijuana legalization and decriminalization on state criminal justice system resources. The project goal was to analyze quantitative and qualitative data in 11 targeted states to address three research questions:

  1. What are the impacts of marijuana legalization and decriminalization on criminal justice resources in Colorado, Washington and Oregon?
  2. What are the impacts on criminal justice resources in states that border states (Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, Utah and Kansas) that have legalized marijuana?
  3. What are the impacts of marijuana legalization and decriminalization on drug trafficking through northern and southwest border states (Arizona, California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington)?

Analysis of project data suggests that legalizing the recreational use of marijuana resulted in fewer marijuana-related arrests and court cases; legalizing marijuana did not have a noticeable impact on indicators in states that bordered those that legalized; and there were no noticeable indications of an increase in arrests related to transportation or trafficking offenses in states along the northern or southern borders. Interviews with law enforcement officials did identify a number of concerns about the legalization of marijuana, including the potency of marijuana products, increased marijuana use among youth, the influx of people from out-of-town or out-of-state, and increases in incidents of drugged driving.

Download the report from here.

About The Author

The Justice Technology Information Center is a component of the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center System, a program of the National Institute of Justice. JTIC serves as an information resource for technology and equipment related to law enforcement, corrections and courts, and hosts the NIJ Compliance Testing Program, a voluntary equipment standards and testing program for ballistic- and stab-resistant body armor and other officer safety equipment, which conducts equipment testing, reviews and analyzes testing data and disseminates results.

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