The next time you see a police officer bust somebody over a little weed, just know that they’re probably not doing what’s in their heart. A study from the Pew Research Center which surveyed roughly 8,000 law enforcement agents in the U.S. found that more than two thirds of them believe cannabis should be legal in either medical or recreational markets.
Of the 5-0 surveyed, 37 percent percent said that cannabis should be legal for medical purposes only, 32 percent thought it should be legal recreationally, and 30 percent said that it should be totally illegally.
That might be higher than you’d expect, given how vocal some police groups have been about marijuana prohibition, but it’s still less 420-friendly than national averages. A Pew survey of Americans found that only 15 percent thought marijuana should be illegal across the board, while 35 percent supported medical cannabis only, and 49 percent said it should be all-the-way legal, as reported by the Washington Post.
This suggests a gap between which beliefs individual police officers hold and which ones their organizations vocalize. Police groups contributed to anti-legalization campaigns in both Arizona and California last year and the president of the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, George Hofstetter, went on record to the Orange County Register with the following flawed argument: “You hear people say it’s not as bad as alcohol. But if you smoke marijuana and drive, it does impair you.”
There is, on the other hand, at least one pro-cannabis legalization police organization, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a group formed over a decade ago that has spoke out in Colorado, Washington and other states against “the failures of existing drug policies.”
Part of the gap in cannabis believers and nonbelievers among the girls and boys in blue can be attributed to generational differences. Pew found that officers under 35 were significantly more likely to believe in cannabis legalization (37 percent) than those aged 50 to 60 (27 percent). If things keep heading that way, every police cruiser is going to be hotboxed by the time the next generation is sworn in to the rank and file.
Photo via Flickr user Elvert Barnes