A recent article in the Wall Street Journal talks about an interesting side effect of marijuana legalization. The author reports that, with the legalization of pot in states like Washington, the police drug task force will actually lose money. This is because special operations like the drug task force rely on money and other assets seized from marijuana offenders. While this may seem to some to be a negligible amount, in 2010, the amount of money brought in from forfeitures in marijuana cases was about $200,000 which is 15% of its funding for the year. Forfeitures in Washington from 2002 to 2012 totaled a whopping $18.6 million.
When a person is convicted of a drug-related crime, their assets related to the crime are seized by police. This can include the land where the drug was grown, vehicles and buildings were it was stored and more. Even the lawnmower used to trim marijuana plants can be seized. These items are auctioned at police cells and the proceeds are kept and used to fund programs like the drug task force.
How police are worried because they have no plan on what to do to supplement this lost income. In Washington, the profits the government makes from the sale of marijuana will not be going towards law-enforcement. Many say that this should not be a problem because the loss of revenue will not be needed since police will no longer have to focus on enforcing marijuana laws. Instead, they can look for offenders dealing more serious drugs like heroin or cocaine.
While this may be a big hit for the Washington Police Department, it is a little startling for some to realize that police depended financially on making drug arrests and taking the property from those offenders. Some feel that the legalization of marijuana is justified and this is just another reason why. Police may have focused on catching marijuana offenders because they often had a lot of land and property that could be seized and not necessarily because they are dangerous criminals.