The Santa Monica City Council recently decided to delay their decision as to whether to adopt into law an initiative that would make adult marijuana use the lowest police priority or let the City voters decide its fate on the November ballot. The delay was decided so that City staff would have time to prepare an analysis of the initiative for the Council.
The Council’s options regarding the initiative were limited since supporters were able to obtain more than enough signatures for it to qualify for the ballot (7,335 people signed the petition).
Before deciding on the delay, the Council heard from several initiative supporters. Luciano Hernandez, representing Santa Monicans for Sensible Marijuana Use (SMSMU), told the Council this initiative “removes the handcuffs from our esteemed police to focus their state of the art crime prevention skills on the violent and serious crimes rather than arresting, jailing and persecuting non-violent law abiding cannabis users. In the City of Seattle, crime and marijuana use dropped when this was initiated.”
Nicole La Rosa, also a member of SMSMU, stressed, “The war on drugs has failed. Eighty-seven percent of Santa Monicans polled agree that our tax dollars and police resources should be focused on crimes more serious than adult marijuana offenders.”
Mike Grey, the Chairman of Common Sense for Drug Policy and the Chairman of the West Hollywood Civil Liberties Alliance, stated West Hollywood approved the initiative on June 19. They did so because “we have been attempting to get the U.S. Congress to face the facts on the issue for 15 years.” Since it hasn’t, there is “a need to legislate on this issue from the bottom.”
Pico Neighborhood resident Art Carseus had a different view. He urged the Council to not “minimize the importance of policing marijuana” because it can be a gateway to abuse of other drugs.
The Council also heard from the City’s police department. Deputy Chief Phil Sanchez explained that his department “believes fundamentally that this is a bad law. We don’t believe that the proposed ordinance established at a local level would supersede state law. The Santa Monica Police Department doesn’t believe passing the proposed ordinance is in the best interest of the community. The ordinance would limit how officers conduct their investigations. It would limit their ability to develop probable cause that could lead to a warrant or could lead to larger seizures” of drugs.
Councilmember Kevin McKeown also expressed his displeasure with the initiative by stating, “Fundamentally I agree with you about the federal law on drugs but this initiative doesn’t fit the City of Santa Monica. Our Santa Monica Police Department, when it comes to adult use of marijuana, is pretty damn cool. It wasn’t locally generated. It was coordinated by a group called the Marijuana Policy Project out of Washington D.C.” Our City “was chosen because we’re one of the liberal progressive cities where this would be likely to pass. The real purpose here is to make a statement and hopefully make a change on how the federal government conducts its so-called war on drugs.”