Today, sheriffs from Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas filed a lawsuit against Colorado’s marijuana legalization law, Amendment 64. The officers claim the law is unconstitutional, and that there is increased burden on law enforcement in neighboring states.
Legalization advocates, including Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, point to the many positive benefits of legalization, including that it has reduced the burden on law enforcement within the state, citing the fact that marijuana possession arrests have
dropped 84% in Colorado since 2010. Colorado is also experiencing significant benefits, including a decreasing unemployment rate, more than $50 million in tax revenue in FY2014-15, and reduced rates of burglary and homicide.
“Legalizing marijuana has allowed police to focus on real crimes but taken away their excuse for otherwise unjustified searches and seizures,” said Maj. Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a group of criminal justice professionals opposed to the drug war. “Of course some law enforcement officers are going to be upset about that. But I would ask those officers to think about why they joined the force in the first place, why they risk their lives every day just to do their jobs.
I doubt many would say it’s to go after low-level drug offenders, whose lives will largely be destroyed in the process and whose communities have come to see police as the enemy. They would say they went into this job because they wanted to protect people, to
be heroes, and it’s about time they recognize that that’s the opposite of what they’re doing when they defend current drug policy.”
Public safety remains at the forefront of the marijuana legalization debate, with proponents citing that marijuana is easier for children to obtain where it is illegal, that arrest and conviction records harm users and that marijuana prohibition causes police officers to focus disproportionately on drug crimes, leaving violent crimes often
unsolved. For instance, in 2013 there were an estimated 400,000 rape kits in the U.S. that had yet to be tested because drug testing of imprisoned defendants get prioritized over other examinations. The U.S. spends about $51 billion dollars per year on drug enforcement efforts, yet none of the intended goals of drug prohibition have been
Alaska, Washington and Oregon have also legalized recreational marijuana sales. Alaska and Oregon regulators are in the process of writing the rules for how new marijuana businesses will operate there, and Washington has joined Colorado as the second state to
safely and successfully sell marijuana legally.