Vermont: Traffic Searches Decline Following Marijuana Legalization

Burlington, VT: Police in the city of Burlington (population 42,000) are executing far fewer traffic searches since the enactment of statewide marijuana legalization, according to a new report provided by the city’s police department.

According to the report, traffic searches fell some 70 percent following the enactment of legalization last July. In addition, African American drivers are less likely to be stopped by police following legalization than before its enactment. However, the report acknowledges, "Despite improvements, [the] stop rate for black drivers [is] still higher than their share of the driving population."

It concludes: "The legalization of marijuana significantly changes how traffic stop searches are conducted. … While searches in the past years still provide historical context, the legal landscape for roadside searches has changed dramatically since [marijuana legalization], and the number of BPD (Burlington Police Department) searches reflect that."

A 2017 analysis by The Marshall Project and the Center for Investigative Reporting similarly reported that the frequency of traffic stop-related searches conducted by Colorado and Washington state patrols declined dramatically following the enactment of marijuana legalization in those states.

For more information, contact Carly Wolf, NORML State Policies Coordinator, at (202) 483-5500.