San Francisco Supes Vote to Make Marijuana "Lowest Enforcement Priority", Call for Legally Regulated Sales

San Francisco, Nov. 14th, 2006. The San Francisco Supervisors voted 8-3 to approve an ordinance making adult marijuana offenses "lowest enforcement priority." The measure also calls on the state and federal government to establish a system of legally taxed and regulated marijuana.

The measure makes San Francisco the largest city in California to embrace marijuana deprioritization. Last week, voters of Santa Barbara, Santa Monica and Santa Cruz all approved "lowest priority" initiatives by more than 64%. Similar measures have been adopted in Oakland, West Hollywood and Berkeley.

The measure was sponsored by Sup. Tom Ammiano, who declared, "This is a question of priorities, plain and simple." The measure was co-sponsored by Sup. Jake McGoldrick with support from Sup. Ross Mirkarimi and Chris Daly.

The measure was opposed by certain neighborhood groups, who complained that it would open the door for drug criminals. However, the police department and Mayor Gavin Newsom declared that the ordinance was in line with current city policy.

Three Supervisors opposed the ordinance: Sean Elsbrend, Michela Alioto-Pier, and Fiona Ma.

The San Francisco campaign was backed by a coalition including California NORML, the Drug Policy Alliance, the Marijuana Policy Project, Axis of Love, and It was also supported by the Harvey Milk and Alice B Toklas Democratic clubs and Public Defender Jeff Adachi.

"San Franciscans realize they would be better off to stop arresting and prosecuting marijuana users and start collecting taxes from them instead," says California NORML director Dale Gieringer.

Advocates say the measure would curb wasteful spending on marijuana enforcement and free up police resources for more serious crimes. In 2004, the city recorded over 1,000 marijuana arrests, at an estimated cost of between $2.5 million and $8 million.

California currently has 1,400 offenders in state prison for marijuana-related offenses, over 14 times as many as in 1980. African-Americans are over-represented by a factor of five among marijuana prisoners.

While the ordinance would make adult marijuana offenses lowest police priority, it would exempt offenses involving minors, sales within view of public property, or DUI.

The ordinance would have no effect on the city's current ordinance regulating medical cannabis dispensaries.

The ordinance would put the Supervisors in line with an initiative approved by 64% of San Francisco voters in 1978, Proposition W, which called for a halt to marijuana arrests and prosecutions.

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