Seattle Pot Smokers and Pareto

The movement of legalized marijuana has gained momentum across the United States; Washington is one such state. Fox news recently reported that Seattle’s district attorney discovered that 80% of pot smoking tickets were issued by one police officer. A single officer has issued 66 of 83 citations (79.518%), this could be the purest example of the Pareto Principle (80/20). Rarely does a single factor come so close to effecting exactly 80% of an outcome.

For those of you not familiar Vilfredo Pareto or the Pareto Principle let me introduce you. “Freddy P” (as he would have been known in New Jersey) was an Italian Economist who studied the distribution of wealth in Italian society. He discovered that 80% of Italy’s wealth resided with 20% of the population. Further studies found this 80/20 distribution applied in most other aspects of society and life.

So what…why do I care? The Pareto principle proves the statement “not all problems are created equal”. When attempting to discover a problem’s root cause we (Lean Six Sigma facilitators) often hear a laundry list of why the problem occurred, however Pareto tells us that a select few (20%) are causing the majority of the impact (80%).

This tool is especially useful when we craft the action plan; which is the “whaadaaya gonna do about it” document. Action plans are simply a list of what the team is going to do to reach the objective. The action items are ordered by priority, more is not better with action plans. We want the critical few actions that have the biggest impact. Simply put, a Pareto analysis is a statistical tool that shows us where to focus our efforts. Pretty cool, egh?

Back to the case of the Seattle police officer…if the DA’s objective is to reduce the number of ticketed pot smokers, the reassignment of a single police officer should cut citations by 80%.

Rumor has it the big push came when the police department vending machines kept running out of Ring Dings.

Smoke em’ if you got em’, Erik