State Troopers Search Fewer Cars For Pot Since Legalization, But Racial Disparities Rise

Listen Now
Photo: marijuana plant
Marijuana plants ready for harvest in Colorado.

The Colorado State Patrol now searches far fewer drivers after traffic stops than it did before recreational marijuana became legal, according to a recent study by Stanford University. But the numbers also show that, during the same time frame, blacks and Hispanics were stopped and searched more than whites. In fact, the gap between searches of whites and minorities grew.

The question is, why? We asked Justin George of the Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization that specializes in criminal justice issues. His organization and the Center for Investigative reporting parsed the findings. Below we have a brief summary of key points in the conversation, and some related links.

Why the Marshall Project paid so much attention to Colorado:

The Stanford study was a national look at police searches, the Marshall Project and its partner, the Center for Investigative Reporting, decided to zero in on Colorado and Washington because of legalization. Because these two states have the longest history with legalization they were the obvious ones to study.

How the data looks for Colorado: