US Mayors Press Federal Government to Respect Legal Marijuana

A group of US mayors have come together to put forth what could potentially become federal legislation in the form of an official resolution signed by the 86th annual United States Conference of Mayors (USCM).

The annual conference, hosted in Boston, Massachusetts, from June 8, 2018 to June 11, 2018, convened more than 250 mayors to discuss issues ranging from gun violence, to LBGT rights, to affordable housing and cannabis decriminalization and legalization.

Seven mayors, lead by Denver’s Michael Hancock, have established a coalition to bring forth responsible and effective cannabis reform solutions. The Government for Responsible US Cannabis Policy Coalition announced their launch at the conference days after President Donald Trump voiced tentative support for bipartisan cannabis legislation.

“As mayors of cities that have successfully implemented and managed this new industry, we have hands on experience that can help Congress take the right steps to support other local governments as they prepare to enter this new frontier,” Hancock said in a statement on Sunday June 10, 2018.  “We all will face common challenges when it comes to legalizing marijuana, and those challenges need federal solutions so implementation can be done smoothly, safely and effectively.”

Mayors from Seattle; Portland, Oregon; San Francisco; Los Angeles; Las Vegas; West Sacramento, California; and Denver — all members of the newly formed cannabis coalition — sponsored a resolution that would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, among other things. The resolution was approved unanimously on Monday, June 11, 2018. As a result, beginning in 2019, the USCM and their bipartisan mayoral membership, with input from The Government for Responsible U.S. Cannabis Policy Coalition, will create federal cannabis policy recommendations and submit them to Congress.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, a co-sponsor of the resolution,  has been critical of the war on drugs, calling marijuana prohibition a failed system, one that does not keep of children safer or protect our communities of color from being disproportionately targeted by law enforcement. “Eventually, legalization will come to every state — and we want to make sure it’s done so safely and effectively,” Wheeler wrote in an email Monday, June 14, 2018.

Forty-six states have legalized cannabis in some form. Federal scheduling has created tension between states that have legalized cannabis and an administration that was determined to crack down on marijuana.

The resolution requests federal support in:

  • Removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, which would allow banks and other financial institutions to work with state-compliant marijuana-related businesses, and allow employers in the cannabis industry to take tax deductions similar to those enjoyed by other businesses
  • Providing updated guidance to financial institutions that are providing or seek to provide services to commercial cannabis businesses
  • Approving the McClintock-Polis amendment to prevent the Drug Enforcement Administration from prosecuting marijuana offenses in states where the drug is legal s
  • Extending safe and legal access to medicinal marijuana to military veterans
  • Maintaining the Rohrabacher-Joyce-Blumenauer amendment, which prohibits the federal government from spending funds to interfere with the implementation of state medical marijuana laws

Absent from the coalition was Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who has in the past expressed his opposition to recreational cannabis. Despite this, legal sales of adult use cannabis are expected to begin in Massachusetts on or around July 1, 2018.

Both Hancock’s and Walsh’s offices have worked hand in hand to better prepare Boston for what is to come. In an interview with WBUR-FM, Boston’s NPR affiliate, Hancock, who like Walsh “adamantly opposed” recreational legalization, offered some insight into their coordinated efforts to help prepare Boston for what is to come.

“Hopefully, Massachusetts takes lessons from cities like Denver, states like Colorado, Washington, and Seattle,” Hancock told WBUR. “I can tell you that Marty Walsh has dispatched, in previous months, his team to come talk to us and we’ve spent some time helping Boston get ready for this.”

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