America

Side Effect Of Legal Pot: Police Budgets Take A Hit

The legalization of marijuana could dry up a revenue stream for police, according to reports. Here, two men share a water pipe underneath the Space Needle shortly after a law legalizing the recreational use of marijuana took effect in Seattle in 2012. i i

The legalization of marijuana could dry up a revenue stream for police, according to reports. Here, two men share a water pipe underneath the Space Needle shortly after a law legalizing the recreational use of marijuana took effect in Seattle in 2012. Stephen Brashear/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Stephen Brashear/Getty Images
The legalization of marijuana could dry up a revenue stream for police, according to reports. Here, two men share a water pipe underneath the Space Needle shortly after a law legalizing the recreational use of marijuana took effect in Seattle in 2012.

The legalization of marijuana could dry up a revenue stream for police, according to reports. Here, two men share a water pipe underneath the Space Needle shortly after a law legalizing the recreational use of marijuana took effect in Seattle in 2012.

Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Some U.S. states are viewing the legalization of marijuana as a chance to gain new sources of tax revenue. Several states allow its use for medical reasons; Colorado has approved its recreational use, and Washington will follow suit this year.

But the decriminalization of pot also stands to remove a funding source for police: property forfeitures from drug dealers. Such funding is "going up in smoke," The Wall Street Journal reports.

Of the $6.5 billion in asset forfeitures in drug cases from 2002-2012, marijuana accounted for $1 billion, the Journal says, citing data from the U.S. Justice Department.

And while most cash generated from drug-related property forfeitures goes to the law enforcement agency that made the bust, tax money from legal marijuana sales goes to state and local governments. Police may get only a share of that money, or none at all.

In a graphic titled "Money Pot," the Journal lists the 10 states that had the highest amounts of asset forfeitures processed by the U.S. government in that 10-year period. Here's the list:

  • California — $181.4 million
  • New York — $101.3 million
  • Florida — $80.5 million
  • Texas — $64.3 million
  • Ohio — $39.2 million
  • Arizona — $36.8 million
  • Michigan — $36 million
  • North Carolina — $34.9 million
  • Georgia — $26.2 million
  • Wisconsin — $24.7 million

When compared with other drugs, marijuana offers a unique opportunity to police, The Journal's Zusha Elinson writes. Its distinct odor that aids detection is only part of the equation.

"The advantage with marijuana is that it's one location, and you can make a lot of money off of one grow," attorney Matthew York, who has worked on drug forfeiture cases in Washington state, tells Elinson. "These other drug dealers, they make a lot of money, but they're harder to find."

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