Out of Control Policy Blog

WeHo (trying) to Free Weed

    First West Hollywood officials required that pet owners be known as "pet guardians." Then they banned cat declawing and even considered outlawing pet cosmetic surgery.

    On Monday, the Westside town famous for its novel municipal lawmaking took a stab at legalizing the recreational use of small amounts of marijuana.

    But achieving that goal might prove difficult.

    The City Council approved a resolution that urges the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department to make marijuana-related offenses a "low priority" that deputies should largely ignore.

    In doing so, it became the first city in Southern California to request that its law enforcement agency look the other way at recreational pot use and target only the sale of marijuana.

    ...

    San Francisco and Oakland have passed similar rules. But unlike those cities, West Hollywood lacks its own police force. Instead it contracts with the county sheriff for police services.

LAT article here; thanks to Courtney for the tip.

WeHo has no authority to force the county department to comply with its vote and Sheriff Baca isn't going to side with the City Council.

But is it better to spend more than 10 grand per weed arrest?

When cops focus too much on marijuana-related arrests, their priorities get hazy:

    In Florida, our research reveals that the War on Drugs was fought at the expense of property crime as police efforts shifted to drugs. This means that the chances of being arrested for a property crime falls, and burglars can commit more crimes before they are apprehended. We estimate there was a 10 percent increase in property crimes due to reallocating police effort from property crime to drug offenses in Florida between 1984 and 1989. Drug policy expert Mark Kleiman confirms this view: "much of the increase in local drug enforcement during the 1980s came at the expense of other law enforcement efforts... As a result, certain kinds of property crimes are treated as unworthy of investigation or prosecution."

And how about those unintended consequences:

    A 1994 National Bureau of Economic Research study found that youth tend to drink more beer when the price of marijuana rises, with the result being more traffic fatalities. Beer drinkers are either more likely to drink and drive or they are more dangerous drivers than those in a pot stupor. Research shows that alcohol impaired drivers are more aggressive than those under the influence of cannabis.

Such trade-offfs are especially in significant in bar/club-rich West Hollywood.

More from Bruce Benson and David Rasmussen here.

Ted Balaker is Producer


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