The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Pot smokers get chance to light up in West Hollywood

The City of West Hollywood has become the first city in Southern California to officially adopt a resolution making the casual use of marijuana a low-priority offense.

This resolution instructs law enforcement to essentially turn the other cheek when dealing with recreational pot users as long as the user is not a minor, and it is not being used on public property or intended for sale.

The resolution in West Hollywood follows the footsteps of similar ordinances passed by the Northern California cities of Santa Cruz and Oakland. Out of these three cities, however, West Hollywood is the only city that does not have its own local police force. Instead, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, whose officials, including Sheriff Lee Baca, contractually police West Hollywood.

The sheriff’s department have not officially said whether or not they would adhere to the resolution.

For the sheriff’s department, complying with the West Hollywood resolution would mean selectively enforcing state marijuana laws, giving the city’s pot users an advantage over those in other cities.

West Hollywood Councilmember John Duran, who proposed the resolution, told the Los Angeles Times that “marijuana use is certainly no more dangerous and destructive than alcohol use,” adding that the resolution would allow law enforcement to focus on more dangerous drugs and other crimes.

While many residents agree with Duran, other residents, as well as officials from the sheriff’s department, are concerned that the resolution might not necessarily convey the right message. Some residents are worried that the resolution would further encourage the use of marijuana, which could create bigger problems for West Hollywood.

The reality is that a large number of the California population is already smoking pot medically or illegally. Those who want to use marijuana could do so quite easily without the need to get an OK from a city resolution.

The city council’s vote to issue an official resolution is a statement in itself that the recreational use of marijuana is at the bottom of a totem pole on social issues. It appears that city officials are considering the realistic effects of casual pot smoking, instead of exaggerating it to be an incredibly dangerous activity.

With the great number of local marijuana advocacy groups arising in California, including the West Hollywood Civil Liberties Alliance, municipalities also are being placed under a great deal of pressure to put costly legalization initiatives on their ballots. The City of West Hollywood was able to avoid spending thousands of dollars on such an initiative by offering a resolution that the alliance quickly accepted.

Although Sheriff Baca and the L.A.S.D. deputies may feel uncomfortable about having to follow an actual request from the city to ignore pot smokers, there will likely be little change in their enforcement procedures. Deputies, along with many police officers throughout the state, already handle small-time pot use on a case-by-case basis, usually just issuing a warning for non-serious offenses.

The only problem here seems to be a battling of powers. By issuing a resolution, West Hollywood is basically trying to tell the L.A.S.D. what to do, even though they have contracted the department to do their policing for them. If law enforcement officers acknowledge the fact that an individual smoking a joint is doing no harm, then the acceptance of the resolution should not be a problem.

The passing of the resolution still does not condone the possession of large quantities of marijuana or the use of it by minors. What it does is address the fact that the sheriff’s department would be making much better use of their time and money if they focused on bigger issues. It is not unreasonable of West Hollywood to ask this of the sheriff’s department, especially if they are trusting the department to take care of their city.

The growing support for marijuana legalization is slowly showing signs of progress. After making medical marijuana use legal, the passing of resolutions like the one in West Hollywood was the next logical step. Marijuana has proven itself to have much more positive effects than negative, and it is only right that local governments are begin realizing it.

Los Angeles taxpayers would probably be much more satisfied with law enforcement taking care of crystal-methamphetamine users or rapists rather than busting the guy smoking a joint in his car.

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