ACLU Report Shows Sharp Drop In Pot Charges In Wash. State After Legalization

Mar 19, 2014

You might assume that after voters passed Initiative 502, making adult possession of marijuana legal, the number of prosecutions for pot would drop. Now, there’s proof to back up that assumption.

The American Civil Liberties Union analyzed court data from around the state, looking specifically at filings for low-level marijuana offenses. The numbers show a huge decrease.

In 2012, before the law took effect, there were more than 5,000 pot related arrests. In 2013, there were just 120 — a decrease of nearly 100 percent.

Mark Cooke is with the ACLU, which endorsed I-502. He says these statistics show that the law is meeting one of its goals, and no longer treating small scale pot possession as a crime.

“So, the hope is that could free up scarce limited public safety resources to focus on more pressing needs,” Cooke said.

As for the 120 people who were arrested for pot, Cooke says it's likely they exceeded the 1 ounce adults are allowed to possess. 

And, according to the ACLU, racial bias still appears to exist in the system. According to the data, an African-American adult is still about three times more likely to have a low-level marijuana offense filed against him or her that a white adult.