Is Washington State Pot Legalization Freeing Up Criminal Justice Resources?


A steep drop in charges filed against adults in Washington state after legalization of marijuana shows the new law is freeing up court and law-enforcement resources to deal with other issues, says the American Civil Liberties Union. Such low-level charges were filed in just 120 cases in 2013, down from 5,531 cases the year before, the Associated Press reports. “The data strongly suggest that [legalization] has achieved one of its primary goals — to free up limited police and prosecutorial resources,” said the ACLU’s Mark Cooke.

Ian Goodhew, deputy chief of staff at the King County Prosecutor's Office, said that hasn't been the case in his office. He said prosecutors handled only a few misdemeanor pot cases a day before the law went into effect. “There's no great relief of workload,” Goodhew said. “I can't fault their logic,” said Mitch Barker of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. “If we took speeding off the books, that would free up time. If we took robbery off the books, that would free up time. The question we all have to look at is, is it good public policy? My sole concern is that when you expand access to marijuana for adults, you expand access for underage people.”

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