Ever since California legalized medical cannabis in 1996, the federal government has worked to thwart the will of the voters with raids, arrests, prosecutions, imprisonment and civil forfeiture. Bill Clinton's administration started the federal interference, George W. Bush escalated it and Barack Obama has taken federal intervention to an even higher (Choom Gang) level. However, the will of the voters will simply not be denied and medical cannabis laws have been passed across the country and two states have now voted, with large majorities, to legalize marijuana for adults. Many mainstream politicians have joined the call to end federal interference, including the United States Conference of Mayors.
Marijuana Majority led the effort to pass this resolution, bringing in organizations from across the country, including us here at NCC, to urge mayors to take a stand against the federal government overriding the will of the voters. Tom Angell, Marijuana Majority's chairman, writesblogs for NCC, and we are pleased to work with such a dedicated activist.
I contacted my mayor, Charlie Hales, thinking that he should certainly be supportive as his Portland, Oregon, constituents overwhelmingly support marijuana legalization and he supported legalization himself during his mayoral campaign. However, I was disappointed by the response I got back from Grace Ugwagbae, his constituent relations manager:
Thank you for contacting the Mayor with regards to the U.S. Conference of Mayor's marijuana resolution.
Marijuana legislation is not a priority of this administration. The Mayor will spend the next several months focusing on the budget; lobbying for statewide support for public schools; community policing; cleanup of the Willamette River; and issues regarding homelessness. He does not intend to take a leadership position on existing or future state or federal marijuana laws.
Again, thank you for contacting the Mayor. Your advocacy is noted and appreciated.
If you would like any information regarding City business please do not hesitate to contact me directly.
This response seemed odd, as I wasn't requesting the mayor "to take a leadership position" on the issue, I was merely asking him to support a common-sense resolution that a vast majority of his constituents agree with. Kitty Piercy, Eugene's mayor, on the other hand, showed real leadership and agreed to co-sponsor the resolution. Fortunately, my disappointment with Mayor Hales was short-lived as I was forwarded an email exchange between the mayor personally and another constituent, as the mayor responded:
I'm at the conference and am supporting the resolution!
It was great to learn that Mayor Hales had come around and even better to know that mayors across the nation realize the importance of the federal government respecting the will of the voters. This resolution is just another beat joining the ever-growing chorus demanding an end to the federal war on cannabis. March on my friends, we are so close to victory!
The press release from Marijuana Majority:
U.S. Conference of Mayors Tells Feds to Respect Local Marijuana Laws
Bipartisan Resolution Urges Obama to Stop Medical Marijuana Crackdown
Polls Show Majority Voter Support for Letting States Set Their Own Policies
LAS VEGAS, NV --- The United States Conference of Mayors unanimously passed a resolution on Mondaycriticizing the failure of marijuana prohibition and urging the federal government to respect the ability of states and cities to implement policies like marijuana legalization and medical marijuana without interference.
"In November, voters in my city and state strongly approved a ballot measure to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana," said Mayor Steve Hogan of Aurora, Colorado. "The bipartisan resolution we passed today simply asks the federal government to give us time to implement these new policies properly and without interference. Cities and states across the country are enacting forward-thinking reforms to failed marijuana prohibition policies, and for the federal government to stand in the way is wasteful and contrary to the wishes of the American people."
Despite campaign pledges that "I'm not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue," President Obama's administration shuttered more state-legal medical marijuana providers in one term than were closed by federal authorities during the two terms of George W. Bush's presidency. In the wake of November's strong passage of initiatives to legalize and regulate marijuana for all adults by voters in Colorado and Washington, Attorney General Eric Holder has repeatedly said that the administration's response is coming "relatively soon."
"It's time for President Obama to enact the changes he promised during the 2008 campaign," said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, the organization that led the effort to pass the resolution, generating nearly 7,000 constituent letters to almost 1,000 mayors across the country. "A strong and growing majority of Americans want states to be able to set their own marijuana laws without federal harassment. Local officials are enacting policies that serve to protect the health and safety of their communities better than the failed policy of prohibition has, and they deserve the respect they are asking for from the Obama administration."
The U.S. Conference of Mayors resolution notes that "enforcing the costly and ineffective prohibition on marijuana drains limited resources that could be better spent on programs that more effectively serve the public and keep our cities safe from serious and violent crime" and demands that "federal laws, including the Controlled Substances Act, should be amended to explicitly allow states to set their own marijuana policies without federal interference" so that localities can "set whatever marijuana policies work best to improve the public safety and health of their communities." Until federal laws are amended, the Conference "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."
The resolution is co-sponsored by 18 mayors, including Bob Filner of San Diego (California), Mike McGinn of Seattle (Washington), Carolyn Goodman of Las Vegas (Nevada), Jean Quan of Oakland (California), Steve Hogan of Aurora (Colorado), Marilyn Strickland of Tacoma (Washington), Kitty Piercy of Eugene (Oregon), and William Euille of Alexandria (Virginia), among several others.
"The prohibition on marijuana has been ineffective and counterproductive," said Mayor Stephen Cassidy of San Leandro, California. "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."
A recent Gallup poll found that 64 percent of Americans say the federal government should not enforce anti-marijuana laws in states that have opted for a new approach. A poll by the Pew Research Center found that 72 percent of Americans believe that government efforts to enforce marijuana laws cost more than they are worth and that a majority (52 percent) support legalizing and regulating marijuana like alcohol. In November, marijuana legalization got more votes in Colorado than President Obama did.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors resolution and full list of co-sponsors are online at http://marijuanamajority.com/mayorsresolution
Marijuana Majority is dedicated to helping people understand that marijuana reform is a mainstream, majority-supported issue and that no one who believes that marijuana laws need to be reformed should be afraid to publicly say so. More information is available at http://MarijuanaMajority.com