- Six mayors formed a first-of-its-kind coalition at the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) this week to advocate for federal marijuana regulatory reform. Led by Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, the Government for Responsible U.S. Cannabis Policy Coalition includes San Francisco Mayor Mark Farrell; Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan; Oakland, CA Mayor Libby Schaaf; Portland, OR Mayor Ted Wheeler and Thornton, CO Mayor Heidi Williams.
Mayors are the ones implementing legal marijuana. We know what works & what doesn’t. Teaming up w/ @MarkFarrellSF, @MayorJenny, @LibbySchaaf, @tedwheeler & @mayorheidi in a first-of-its-kind coalition to help cities, states & Congress prepare for legalization #MayorsMJCoalition pic.twitter.com/M6TCORQc5P— Michael B. Hancock (@MayorHancock) June 11, 2018
- USCM approved a resolution requesting federal support in a number of areas including removing cannabis from the Controlled Substance Act and increasing U.S. veterans' access to medicinal marijuana. This resolution is sponsored by Hancock, Farrell, Durkan and Wheeler, as well as Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman; Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and West Sacramento, CA Mayor Christopher Cabaldon.
- The sponsors will work to develop federal policy recommendations to be submitted to Congress starting in 2019, and coalition members will actively advocate for these recommendations.
In a statement, Wheeler touted the importance of marijuana legalization for the sake of safety and equality. "Cannabis prohibition has failed," he said. "It has failed to keep our children safe; it has failed law enforcement, and it has especially failed communities of color disproportionately targeted and prosecuted for low-level drug offenses." He went on to explain how cannabis has boosted economic activity in Portland.
In fact, the mayors that are supporting this regulatory reform have all welcomed the cannabis industry into their cities and have worked through the local regulatory and implementation processes to ensure the industry is successful. Hancock said in a statement that 46 states now have legalized marijuana in some capacity, so it's inevitable for this industry to continue spreading rapidly — and cities need to be given the support and resources to embrace it.
Regulating a local cannabis industry is no small task, however, and can lead to some risks including increased real estate prices or driver safety threats. Though, if implemented efficiently, cities can reap a wealth of benefits from legalization, including an influx of local tax revenue and the eradication of many black market sales.
Legalization can also push cities toward becoming more inclusive and equitable. San Francisco recently announced it will use an algorithm developed by Code For America to help purge marijuana citations from criminals' records, an effort that will help ensure people with marijuana convictions aren't unfairly discriminated against. If this process is effective, more cities could apply for the algorithm as marijuana is decriminalized.
This coalition is the latest example of cities "leading where Washington won't," a trend that former mayor Michael Bloomberg praised in a recent open letter.