Dazed and Confused: Difficulties for Law Enforcement During Oregon's Transition to a Legal Marijuana Market

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Police Quarterly

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As more states legalize recreational cannabis, questions remain about the impact of this transition for police who continue to be responsible for enforcing laws governing illicit production and distribution of the drug, use of the substance in prohibited settings, and possession by juveniles. Legalization may also lead to additional responsibilities, including policing homegrown cannabis and licensed businesses involved in cultivating, processing, and selling the drug. Documenting the experience of law enforcement officers in states that have already transitioned to a legal market may provide important insights into the implementation of cannabis policies in other jurisdictions. The present study surveyed 301 law enforcement officers in Oregon three years after the state legalized recreational marijuana. Results indicate that officers perceive increases in many marijuana-related problems following legalization and most officers report that the state’s revised statutes are confusing and difficult to enforce. Implications for public policy are discussed.


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