Report: Colorado troopers have eased off vehicle searches since marijuana was legalized

Black and Hispanic drivers are still far more likely to be searched.

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photo

State troopers have been a lot less interested in searching people’s cars lately, according to a new analysis by The Marshall Project and The Center for Investigative Reporting.

The Colorado State Patrol is searching about half as many cars during traffic stops since marijuana legalization, the report found. However, black and Hispanic drivers are still far more likely to be searched.

Before legalization, troopers searched 9.6 vehicles for every 1,000 black and Hispanic drivers it stopped. Since then, they’ve searched 4.9 black drivers and four Hispanic drivers for every 1,000 stops, as The Marshall Project reported.

White drivers saw an even steeper relative decline, dropping from four to 1.5 searches per 1,000 stops. (The data was provided by the Stanford Open Policing Project.)

The change may have happened because the legalization of marijuana took away one of the easiest justifications troopers had to search vehicles. Claiming to smell marijuana — whether true or not — is no longer a reason to pop the trunk.

The data did not include the Denver Police Department.

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