Survey: Majority of Police Officers Think Marijuana Laws Should be Relaxed
Attitude shift towards pot trickling down to law enforcement
Right now, 28 states and the District of Columbia have marijuana laws on the books, but the rest of the country (and people in states where recreational pot is still against the law) still runs the risk of spending time behind bars for imbibing in or even possessing small amounts of the plant. Meanwhile, a new survey shows that most cops think that marijuana laws should be relaxed.
The Pew Research Center surveyed nearly 8,000 police officers from 54 police and sheriff’s departments across the U.S., between May and August of 2016. Pew discovered that nearly 2/3 of police officers believe that marijuana should be legal for either personal or medical use. 
The large, nationally-representative survey of law enforcement found that 32% of police officers said that both recreational and medical marijuana should be legal, while 37% said only medical marijuana should be allowed. Thirty-percent of cops said marijuana should not be legalized at all. 
A 2014 poll showed that 56% of doctors approved of medical marijuana. And a national poll from last June showed that 54% of the country said marijuana use should be legalized across the country. Officers under the age of 35 were more likely than those ages 50-60 to think marijuana should be legal for personal and medical use.
So the percentage of police officers who think pot should be legalized is comparatively modest. Among all Americans, the latest poll found that 49% supported recreational marijuana, 35% supported medical marijuana, and only 15% said pot should not be legal at all.
Law enforcement groups have fought marijuana legalization. Last year, such groups made small, but significant contributions to oppose legalization measures in California and Arizona, pointing to underage use and intoxicated driving as potential dangers. 
By contrast, the stance of LEAP – Law Enforcement Against Prohibition – which has been active in campaigns to legalize recreational marijuana in Colorado, Washington, and other areas of the country – is just the opposite. The group has actively spoken out “about the failures of our existing drug policies.”
Diane Goldstein, a retired Lieutenant Commander for the Redondo Beach Police Department and LEAP board member, expected to see that a conservative number of police officers favored legalization.
“Law enforcement continues to represent an outlier view on this issue because police are trained with outdated, unscientific, drug-war-oriented materials.”
However, the findings are encouraging, Goldstein said, and “reflects a positive attitude shift when you see that it’s only 1 in 3 police officers who believe marijuana should remain illegal.”
In 2015, U.S. police made more than 574,000 arrests for possessing small amounts of weed, which was more than the arrests they made for all violent crimes combined, according to Human Rights Watch. 
Julie Fidler has written hundreds of articles on key world topics such as health, drugs, and law. She is also the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. Oh, and she loves to take care of two ridiculously- spoiled cats in her free time.