Getting the Federal Government Out

America’s mayors want the feds to mind their own business when it comes to medical cannabis. Hundreds of leaders of cities and towns from across the country voted to tell the federal government to stay out of medical marijuana policy and let states set their own rules. The vote, cast June 24, was part of the 81st annual U.S. Conference of Mayors, held in Las Vegas.

The resolution was sponsored by Daniel Rizzo, mayor of Revere, Mass. It declares that “states and localities should be able to set whatever marijuana policies work best to improve the public safety and health of their communities.” Mayor Stephen Cassidy of San Leandro, Cal., said the choice to legalize should belong to voters. “Voters in states and cities that wish to break the stranglehold of organized crime over the distribution and sale of marijuana in their communities by legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana should have the option of doing so,” Cassidy said in a statement.

Sensible Cannabis Policy

The resolution takes no direct stand on legalization, but its language reflects an understanding that the drug war has faBehind Barsiled. It “urges the president of the United States to reexamine the priorities of federal agencies to prevent the expenditure of resources on actions that undermine the duly enacted marijuana laws of states.” Mayors have good reason to favor local control over marijuana policy. Minor, non-violent drug offenses are among the leading causes of incarceration in American cities. And unnecessary jail or prison time can destroy lives, making future crime more likely.

Big-city mayors also know the statistics on drugs and organized crime. The resolution states, “The U.S. Department of Justice reports that Mexican cartels operate drug distribution networks in more than 1,000 U.S. cities and that ‘marijuana distribution in the United States remains [their] single largest source of revenue,’ while drug policy and law enforcement officials, including former White House drug czar John Walters and former Arizona attorney general Terry Goddard, have estimated that cartels make as much as 60 percent of their profits from marijuana alone.”

Voters in states and cities that wish to break the stranglehold of organized crime over the distribution and sale of marijuana in their communities by legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana should have the option of doing so.

Mayor Stephen Cassidy
San Leandro, CA

Unlike many other popular illicit narcotics, marijuana is easily produced in the United States, indoors or out, in a variety of climates and geographies. It can be overseen and regulated by state governments. That means a homegrown industry could readily deprive Mexican cartels and other organized criminals of their American black market. All this crime puts a burden on the nation’s towns and cities, the mayors said. Almost all marijuana arrests are made by local cops or state troopers, leaving states and municipalities holding the bag for that massive part of the drug war. And it diverts resources from serious and violent crimes, they said.

Mayors, who must deal with racial issues at the most local of levels, also witness the toll marijuana policy takes on minority communities. As they said in their resolution, “rates of marijuana sales and use are similar across racial and ethnic groups, but people of color are arrested, convicted, sentenced and incarcerated at higher rates and for longer periods of time.” The mayors acknowledged that their views on pot legalization differ widely. Nonetheless, they approved the resolution unanimously.

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