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Marijuana legalization may have increased police efficiency

Washington police appear to be more efficiently solving other crimes after weed legalization, according to a new WSU study.

One of the arguments for the legalization of marijuana was that it would free up police to pursue more serious crimes. Those who used to get charged with a misdemeanor possession in the old days probably yelled this at the cops.

A new study by Washington State University appears to back up that claim, reports The Washington Post.

“Our models show no negative effects of legalization and, instead, indicate that crime clearance rates for at least some types of crime are increasing faster in states that legalized than in those that did not,” notes the study published in Police Quarterly.

RELATED: What’s behind Seattle’s motion to toss out marijuana convictions

What exactly is crime clearance? That would occur only after a suspect has been arrested and forwarded to the judicial system for prosecution. There’s probably some sort of ink stamp involved.

Researchers examined clearance rates in Washington and Colorado from 2010 to 2015, and then compared that with the implementation of marijuana legalization in November 2012 in Colorado and December 2012 for Washington. While clearance was declining in both states previous to marijuana legalization, it began to reverse itself in Washington afterwards and stabilized in Colorado, as opposed to the rest of the country.

The data cannot prove it was only legalization

It’s possible that the police simply became more efficient on their own, as the researchers note. More aggressive policing and internal changes in strategy may be factors. But since no major change in policing policy occurred during the time period, evidence suggests a strong link to legalization.

The Seattle Police Department did make that one change and handed out chips at the Hempfest following legalization. Of course, it was all an effort to educate festival-goers of the new laws.

The study concludes that “We think the argument that legalization did in fact produce a measurable impact on clearance rates is plausible.” Perhaps they should just ask the police what they think.

Still, the lack of low-level marijuana enforcement and the bureaucracy that came with it was a time-consuming affair, and researchers believe the reallocation of freed-up police resources led to a newfound productivity.

More time to write an FAQ on marijuana use in Seattle? Perhaps.

“Our results suggest,” the study notes, “that just as marijuana legalization proponents argued, the legalization of marijuana influenced police outcomes, which in the context of this article is modeled as improvements in clearance rates.”

So while legalization proponents may be feeling vindicated, it’s safe to assume that criminals aren’t too happy with the added efficiency.

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