In many ways, the mayor of a major American city is more important than a governor or a member of Congress. There are more people within Los Angeles’ city limits than there are in many U.S. states, to say nothing of the flow of money, goods and people from all over the world into certain metropolises. Ask someone from Europe to find Missouri on a map, or where key senators like Mitch McConnell come from — and now ask them to find Miami.
A well-placed mayor is in an ideal position to affect policy, and can be peculiarly affected by it at the same time. A congressman can hide on Capitol Hill, whereas City Hall is never far from the Chamber of Commerce. For these reasons, you may well ask why it took until now for a coalition of cannabis-friendly mayors to assemble, which happened for the first time this weekend at the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ annual meeting in Boston.
On Monday, the mayors of Denver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and West Sacramento — all cities in states where recreational marijuana is legal and where retail outlets are open for business — sponsored a successful resolution at the conference, urging the federal government to remove cannabis from its list of prohibited substances.
According to the Associated Press, the mayors requested that the federal government remove cannabis from the federal Controlled Substances Act, allow employers in the marijuana industry to take tax deductions similar to those allowed in other businesses, vacate marijuana-related misdemeanors from citizens’ records, provide guidance to financial institutions that provide banking to cannabis businesses and extend legal access to medical marijuana for U.S. veterans.
The resolution was approved unanimously, according to a spokesperson for the conference.
Together, the mayors represent more than 10 million people — more than 42 U.S. states combined — and a significant portion of the country’s legal marijuana marketplace.
Going forward, the mayors will try to use their assembled clout to lean on federal lawmakers, such as those not currently on Congress’s “cannabis caucus,” and especially those who may chair key the key committees in Congress where cannabis reform keeps getting blocked. They’ll also “swap tips on how to best regulate the drug locally,” according to the Boston Globe.
“We’re trying to unify mayors around the need to address federal impediments to taxing and regulating the industry,” Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler told the newspaper in an interview.
“Eventually, legalization will come to every state — and we want to make sure it’s done so safely and effectively,” he added, noting that other civic leaders would do well to either join themselves — or, failing that, to pay attention to their trailblazing colleagues. “Mayors have a responsibility to stay abreast of the changes in the marketplace.”
Boston’s Mayor Marty Walsh Opts Out
Like anyone seeking power on any level is well aware, mayors are also wise to keep thriving industries happy or at least satisfied that their wants are being heard. This makes Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s omission from the list of pro-cannabis mayors all the more confounding.
Walsh, a recovering alcoholic, opposed Massachusetts’s marijuana legalization effort in 2016 and has spent part of the ensuing few years making things difficult for the industry. Two other marijuana-friendly resolutions that won overwhelming support did not receive approval from Walsh, the Globe noted.
There is still room for Walsh to change his mind and change course, as other mayors have done, most notably Denver’s Michael Hancock.
“I had to get beyond my own knowledge and gain a better understanding of cannabis and why people use it,” Hancock told reporters at the Globe, noting his prohibitionist-leaning fears did not come true. “I thought kids would get it, and I thought it would damage our neighborhoods, but I’ve realized I have the power as a leader to get a handle on this industry.”
TELL US, does your mayor support cannabis?