U.S. Mayors Demand Change to Federal Policy, End to Crackdown on Medical Marijuana in Their Cities

Las Vegas, NV -- As mayors from across the country gather today in Las Vegas for the 81st annual U.S. Conference of Mayors, the federal government's crackdown on medical marijuana is expected to be discussed and debated over the weekend. A resolution "in support of states setting their own marijuana policies without federal interference" was introduced in advance of the conference by San Diego Mayor Bob Filner and co-sponsored by eight other mayors from across the country. Deliberation on the resolution comes days after medical marijuana advocates issued an alarming report detailing how the Obama Justice Department has spent nearly $300 million to undermine medical marijuana laws in the U.S.

"Ultimately, this is about whether local and state governments can develop, adopt, and implement public health laws without heavy-handed interference by the federal government," said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access, which authored "What's the Cost?" an extensive report issued last week on the economic and social costs of the federal government's war on medical marijuana. "This resolution is emblematic of the frustration experienced by local and state officials, which will continue until the federal government ends its attacks on medical marijuana." More than 100 million people, or 34 percent of Americans, currently live in states with medical marijuana laws.

The resolution, which was introduced on May 22nd and co-sponsored by the mayors of Aurora (CO), Berkeley (CA), Binghamton (NY), Glendale (CO), Oakland (CA), San Leandro (CA), Seattle (WA), and Tacoma (WA), says that despite differing views on how to treat marijuana in their cities, mayors believe "states and localities should be able to set whatever marijuana policies work best to improve the public safety and health of their communities." Specifically, the resolution calls for an end to "federal interference," and a fundamental change to federal policy on marijuana. Until that happens, the U.S. Conference of Mayors "urges the President of the United States to reexamine the priorities of federal agencies to prevent the expenditure of resources on actions that undermine the duly enacted marijuana laws of states."

In 2007, at its 75th annual meeting, the U.S. Conference of Mayors declared the war on drugs a failure and called for "a health-centered" approach to drug policy. Last year, at its 80th annual meeting, mayors adopted a resolution calling for an end to the state-federal conflict on marijuana policies that "frustrates our citizens, costs cities significant time and resources to address, and prevents the establishment of a regulated and safe system to supply patients." This year's resolution cites President Obama's comments that continued interference is "not a good use of our resources" and his administration's pledge not "to circumvent state laws on this issue." Marijuana Majority is currently leading a grassroots campaign to urge mayors around the country to co-sponsor the resolution.

Mayors and other local officials have been at the forefront of resistance to the federal government's attack on medical marijuana. After the Obama Justice Department filed an asset forfeiture lawsuit last July against the landlords of Harborside Health Center, California's largest dispensary, the City of Oakland quickly filed its own lawsuit to challenge the federal government's actions. Last month, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag similarly filed a forfeiture lawsuit against the landlord of Berkeley Patients Group (BPG), one of California's oldest dispensaries. Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, along with four City Council members and other state and federal officials, publicly condemned the federal action and have committed to intervene in support of BPG and its patients.

Despite this resistance, the federal campaign appears unrelenting. Just last week, Michigan medical marijuana patient and organ transplant recipient Jerry Duval surrendered to federal authorities to serve out a 10-year prison sentence at a cost to taxpayers of more than $1 million. In 2012, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) spent four percent of its budget on the medical marijuana crackdown. Having conducted at least 270 paramilitary-style raids during the past four years, Obama's DEA spent approximately $8 million to carry them out. However, the amount of taxpayer dollars spent on raids was dwarfed by the amount spent on investigative efforts preceding raids, indictments, and lawsuits, which has totaled more than $200 million. In addition to sending hundreds of letters threatening to prosecute property owners, the Obama Justice Department is expected to spend more than $10 million on lawsuits aimed at forfeiting the property of those in full compliance with state law.

Further information:
U.S. Conference of Mayors draft resolution: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Resolution_US_Mayors_Conference_2013.pdf
ASA report on the costs of federal enforcement against medical marijuana: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/WhatsTheCost.pdf

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With over 50,000 active members in all 50 states, Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is the largest national member-based organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research. ASA works to overcome political and legal barriers by creating policies that improve access to medical cannabis for patients and researchers through legislation, education, litigation, grassroots actions, advocacy and services for patients and the caregivers.