Date of Award

Summer 5-12-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Dr. Tamerin Capellino

Second Advisor

Dr. Curtis McIntyre

Third Advisor

Dr. Rowlanda Cawthon


Purpose: The purpose of this phenomenological qualitative study was to discover the attitudes and perceptions of police officers on the legalization of recreational cannabis and crime.

Methodology: This qualitative, phenomenological methodology employed the use of semi-structured interview questions consisting of open-ended questions to understand the lived experiences of Colorado Police and Sheriff Officers and their perspectives on the experiences with the legalization of cannabis and crime. The sample size of 16 officers was selected from the sampling frame, which included Denver Police officers and Larimer County Sheriff officers.

Findings: Analysis of the data from interviews resulted in the identification of 14 major findings; 1) Officers oppose legalization; 2) Officers have an unfavorable opinion regarding legalization because they feel it can lead to increased access/use of illicit drugs; 3) Officers feel that the only reason the state legalized cannabis is for the tax revenue it generates for the state; 4) Officers’ viewpoint is that legalization has led to more violent crimes; 5) Officers perceive that Amendment 64 was designed to change perceptions about legal recreational marijuana; 6) Officers feel that legalization has led to an increase in burglary; 7) Officers are cognizant of the possibility of an increase in organized crime activities; 8) Officers expressed displeasure with the decriminalization of non-medical use, possession, and purchase of narcotics; 9) Officers express how an increase in crime has negatively impacted policing efforts; 10) Officers attribute an increase in homelessness and transient population as a symptom of the legalization of recreational cannabis; 11) Officers express frustration with lack of effective regulation; 12) Officers expressed that legalization has had no effect on timely responses to crime; 13) Officers expressed that the biggest challenge faced is maneuvering the demands of state versus federal law; 14) Officers express frustration in navigating the legal requirements relating to legal search and seizure.

Conclusions: As more states are considering legalizing cannabis for recreational use, these findings present significant suggestions for the state legislature and the members of the law enforcement community in those states.

Recommendations: Additional research should be conducted in other states to expand on the perceptions of the law enforcement community pre-and post-legalization of recreational cannabis and the impact it has on crime.