Pubdate: Wed, 11 Jan 2017
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2017 The Washington Post Company


A Pew Research Center survey of nearly 8,000 police officers finds
that more than two-thirds of them say that marijuana use should be
legal for either personal or medical use.

The nationally representative survey of law enforcement, one of the
largest of its kind, found that 32 percent of police officers said
marijuana should be legal for medical and recreational use, while 37
percent said it should be legal for medical use only. An additional 30
percent said that marijuana should not be legal at all.

Police are more conservative than the general public on the issue.
Among all Americans, Pew found that 49 percent supported recreational
marijuana, 35 percent supported medical marijuana only, and 15 percent
said the drug should not be legal.

Pew also found a generational divide among cops on the marijuana
issue, although not as large as the one that exists among the general
public. Officers under age 35 were more likely to support recreational
marijuana (37 percent) than those between the ages of 50 and 60 (27
percent). Among the general public, those numbers stand at 67 percent
and 45 percent, respectively.

Law enforcement groups have often been among the staunchest opponents
of marijuana legalization measures. In 2016, such groups made small
but significant contributions to oppose legalization measures in
California and Arizona, citing concerns over issues such as underage
use and intoxicated driving.

"You hear people say it's not as bad as alcohol," George Hofstetter,
president of the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, told the
Orange County Register last year. "But if you smoke marijuana and
drive, it does impair you."

But as the Pew survey indicates, there's considerable variation in
views on marijuana use among the rank-and-file. The group LEAP -- Law
Enforcement Against Prohibition -- was founded in 2002 for active-duty
and retired police officers to speak out "about the failures of our
existing drug policies." The group has been particularly active in
campaigns to legalize recreational marijuana in Colorado, Washington
and elsewhere.

Diane Goldstein, a retired Lieutenant Commander for the Redondo Beach
Police Department and LEAP board member, said she's not surprised to
see that police officers have more conservative attitudes than the
public on marijuana legalization. "Law enforcement continues to
represent an outlier view on this issue because police are trained
with outdated, unscientific, drug-war-oriented materials."

But she added that "the poll reflects a positive attitude shift when
you see that it's only 1 in 3 police officers who believe marijuana
should remain illegal."

The Pew Research Center National Survey of Law Enforcement Officers
was conducted online May 19 through Aug. 14, 2016, among a national
sample of 7,917 police officers in local police and sheriff
departments with at least 100 sworn officers (excluding state
agencies). The margin of sampling error is 2-3 percentage points.
General public results based on survey of 4,538 U.S. adults conducted
online and by mail Aug. 16 through Sept. 12, 2016; the error margin is
plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.
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MAP posted-by: Matt