American mayors call on federal government to ease marijuana penalties

Donald Trump has said he would likely support a measure returning authority over marijuana to states

Jeremy B. White
San Francisco
Monday 11 June 2018 21:07 BST
An employee puts down an eighth of marijuana after letting a customer smell it outside the Magnolia cannabis lounge in Oakland, California
An employee puts down an eighth of marijuana after letting a customer smell it outside the Magnolia cannabis lounge in Oakland, California (Reuters/Elijah Nouvelage)

Mayors representing cities across the United States have called on the federal government to ease its prohibition on marijuana usage.

Tens of millions of Americans now live in states that allow adults to purchase and possess marijuana, and medical cannabis is available across an even larger swathe of the United States. But the federal Controlled Substances Act considers marijuana to be a Schedule 1 drug - the most dangerous designation.

A resolution passed by the US Conference of Mayors, which had gathered hundreds of local officials together for a conference in Oregon, urged the government to remove cannabis from that category. The measure noted that marijuana’s current status cuts off legitimate businesses from access to banking.

De-scheduling cannabis would allow “federal banking regulators to permanently authorise financial institutions to provide services to commercial cannabis businesses, and increase the safety of the public”, the resolution said.

Another resolution called on local governments in states where marijuana is legal to vacate the cannabis-related convictions of young people, saying the move would offer “evidence that the criminal justice system acknowledges the racial disproportionality of enforcement of drug laws and is willing to address that injustice”.

“The decades-long and failed war on drugs has devastated communities of color across our nation and incarcerated a disproportionate and unprecedented amount of people from those communities,” the resolution said.

Separately, mayors representing major cities in states that have legalised cannabis announced they were forming a coalition to advise other elected officials as marijuana legalisation continues to spread.

As the first wave of states began legalising recreational marijuana use under Barack Obama, the Department of Justice issued a policy directing the federal government to leave alone states that allowed marijuana use but had enacted strong regulations.

Trump says he really supports senate marijuana legislation

The Justice Department switched back to tougher enforcement guidelines under Donald Trump’s attorney general Jeff Sessions, angering state officials who said their autonomy was being compromised. Mr Trump has since broken with Mr Sessions in saying he would “probably” support a bipartisan bill that would restore authority to states.

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