WSU Study Explores Officer Experiences During Era Of Legal Marijuana

May 7, 2020

A WSU study examines opinions of police officers about working in a state with legalized marijuana.
Credit Doug Nadvornick/SPR

Washington State University researchers have released results of a survey with police officers about their experiences since the state legalized recreational marijuana.

Dr. Mary Stohr is a professor of criminal justice and criminology. She says she and her colleagues conducted focus groups with 48 officers from nine policing agencies around Washington. Two main themes emerged.

“Drugged driving was a big concern and the fact that we can’t easily test for that and do that in a time-sensitive manner," Stohr said. "Then, the other main concern was the effect on juvenile use of marijuana and the concern that there would be greater availability for kids to experiment with.”

Stohr says the state’s marijuana use surveys haven’t shown an increase in use among minors.

She says many officers also noted they didn’t feel prepared for what they would encounter when marijuana became legal at the end of 2013. Nor did they feel the state had done an adequate job with educating the public  about it.

The research was published this week in the Justice Evaluation Journal. Stohr’s team wrote a column about it for the Seattle Times. She says she and her colleagues will talk next week with a legislative study team in an East Coast state that is considering legal marijuana. She also hopes to share the research with Washington legislators this fall.