There has been significant advocacy for marijuana law reforms in the US in the last couple of decades. Although the medicinal properties of cannabis have been explored and proven, the debate about the classification of Cannabis as Schedule 1 drug has hampered progress. A significant number of States have made the use of marijuana for medical purposes legal since the late 1990s, but only 10 states, including Washington DC, have legalized marijuana for both medicinal and recreational use. In January 2018, California became the biggest state in America to legalize medical and recreational marijuana use.
The federal government’s position on marijuana
At the federal level, marijuana is still illegal, but states, mayors, and local politicians have been engaging with each other and advocating for the federal government to decriminalize marijuana. During his tenure as President, Barack Obama set out guidelines which indicated that States can set their own regulations and expect no interference from the federal government as long as cannabis was not trafficked, sold to minors or across state lines. These guidelines are known as the Cole and Ogden Memos. These helped a lot of states to review policies and amend their drug laws. However, there is a new administration at the White House which seems to be on a mission to obliterate everything that Obama put in place. Just when people thought that America’s war on pot would relent, the U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded Obama’s Cole and Ogden memos earlier this year.
Although there are supporters of the decimalization of marijuana in Congress, they don’t seem to be doing a good job of swaying the federal government to reform its strict marijuana laws. Mayors and city officials from various states have authored a letter to Jeff Session to protest and reaffirm their position on the issue.
Why are mayors advocating for the reform of marijuana laws?
A lot of mayors and local government officials have been at the forefront of the resistance against the federal government’s war on marijuana and cannabis products for years. At the 2007 annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, US mayors called for a drug policy that was more health-centered so that people could have access to medical marijuana without fear of the law. They came to a resolution that stated that despite the different views that people have, states and local government should be able to set marijuana policies that work to improve public health and safety. Mayors have been calling for the end to the state-federal conflict on marijuana because the policies do nothing but frustrate citizens and costs cities a lot of time and money to address. Instead of clamping down on Marijuana, many activists believe that the government should be focusing on opioid addiction and finding better ways to reduce the number of related overdose deaths.
As mayors and local politicians like Reno’s Azzi Shirazi launch their election campaigns, they not only have to protect their own state laws but also to show people the benefits of legalizing marijuana and being in control of policies that govern its use. You can check voteazziformayor.com to know more about Azzi Shirazi, her beliefs, and vision for Reno.
When the Cole and Ogden memos were in place, the legal marijuana market flourished. In cities like Seattle and Denver, the number of marijuana stores outnumbered the popular Starbucks’ coffee chain. This showed the kind of economic growth marijuana businesses can bring to a city. A high economic growth means more taxes for the state coffers and more taxes means that states can improve their infrastructure, provide better social services and actually put money in improving lives.
There is a growing awareness around marijuana. The federal government’s war on marijuana has done nothing but waste taxpayers’ money and deny people the health benefits derived from cannabis. The legalization of marijuana in different states had taken a lot longer than it should have. Those States that have reformed might have seen the economic and social benefits of legalization, but the government’s reluctance to change federal laws continue to hamper progress. More than ever before, the American people are looking to their mayors and local elected officials to continue pressuring the government to change federal marijuana laws and a lot of them are doing just that. We can only hope that all these efforts and the progress already made will not be scuppered by individual beliefs and prejudices, but that the government will act for the greater good.