Enforcement of the weed laws is "largely accidental," many cops believe marijuana is a "trivial" offence, and think nailing users won't have any impact on their long-term drug use.

That's the word from a new study of police officers in Britain, along with older research from America.  

So why do cops in prohibition states and countries still cite and arrest? Well, habit and obligation.

"They saw it as their duty to enforce the law – and, importantly, to be seen to enforce the law," the report's authors said. "Officers spoke about the need to fulfil public expectations that action would always be taken where a law is clearly being broken."

Cops feel like they can't be caught slipping: they're law enforcement; they enforce laws. Anything else is like a barber not cutting hair, a teacher not teaching.

Health care, schools, manufacturing do the same. A good book on this is "The Utopia of Rules," about how bureaucracies take on their own momentum, and men inside them are hamsters on wheels in cages, enforcing senseless rules, rules they know are ineffective — better than the makers of the rules themselves. "Police," says "The Utopia of Rules," are just "bureaucrats with weapons."

The most common reason for cops to search is smell, and most common scenario for smelling drugs is during a traffic stop. The cops feel like the sweet stink of weed alone justifies a search, even though lawyers differ. But they feel they can't ignore the smell, any more than you can ignore the smell of perfume on your husband's collar.

Cops don't love feeling compelled. Most cops signed up to fight real crime that actually hurts people, and know marijuana is as hurtful as a butterfly. Only a minority of cops favor totally illegality of pot, a study found; 37 percent support medical, 32 percent support medical and rec. Some law enforcement officers are even leaving the force to join cannabis companies, like a former California DA.

[A protester during the Occupy Wall Street in September 2012.]

One in four young people smoke pot; cops run across teen ents about as often as they drive over speedbumps. They're relieved, the report said, that they're allowed to warm the young thugs on the first offense. "Officers in our study were acutely aware that the long term consequences of having a criminal record might be disproportionate to the seriousness of these offences," the report said.

This survey is all about Britain; American cops might be different, and revel in busting small-time tokers for a joint or two. But it seems to me that American cops are just asking for respect. After legalization in Washington in 2012, the Seattle Police Chief asked stoners, "Don't embarrass police officers" by "using in front of police."

[Photos from Shutterstock.]