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The Impact of Recreational Marijuana Legalization in Washington State

Maggie Martin, PhD

White Paper

August 10, 2022

One point of debate that comes up frequently in the discussion around the effects of marijuana legalization is whether legalizing marijuana for recreational use may impact public safety and criminal justice processing. As part of a National Institute of Justice (NIJ)-funded study on the effects of marijuana legalization, Abt employed quantitative and qualitative methods, using primary and secondary data sources, to explore the association between marijuana legalization and criminal justice outcomes. Although we looked at these effects around the U.S., we also focused analyses on Washington State. In this brief, we describe what the study team did, what we found, and implications for future research and policy. Among other findings, the study found modest but statistically significant increases in property crimes around marijuana retail outlets, perhaps because the all-cash business makes customers attractive targets.