Mike McGinn, the Mayor of Seattle, Washington, used his city address yesterday to repeat his call for the legalization of marijuana in his state. From his speech:
It is time we were honest about the problems we face with the drug trade. Drugs are a source of criminal profit, and that has led to shootings and even murders. Just like we learned in the 1920s with the prohibition of alcohol, prohibition of marijuana is fueling violent activity. We also know today that the drug war fuels a biased incarceration policy. The drug war’s victims are predominantly young men of color.
Seattle is the kind of place that isn’t afraid to try a different approach. We support safe access to medical marijuana and made enforcement of possession of marijuana for personal purposes our lowest enforcement priority. But we’ve learned in the past year that with the federal war on drugs still intact, and with our kids still getting gunned down on the streets, we need to do more.
I know every one of the city council members sitting to my left and right believe as I do: it’s time for this state to legalize marijuana, and stop the violence, stop the incarceration, stop the erosion of civil liberties, and urge the federal government to stop the failed war on drugs.
And maybe if we can get sensible about marijuana, we can get sensible about gun laws next.
This is the sitting mayor of one of America’s largest cities speaking in his official capacity, calling for an end to marijuana prohibition. Having powerful elected officials clearly and repeatedly state that the drug war has failed is critical for moving the policy decision about marijuana legalization from a fringe idea to part of the legitimate mainstream political discourse. The more politicians that take this position, the less scary it becomes for other politicians to join them.
McGinn’s very public call for marijuana legalization is especially important now, because this November the voters of Washington state will get to decide on I-502. If approved, this ballot initiative would legalize, tax and regulate marijuana in Washington for adults over the age of 21.
It should be noted Mayor McGinn specifically said it is time for “this state to legalize marijuana.” Not only does he think marijuana legalization in general is the right policy solution, but he indicates that it is an important reform Washington should move forward with even if the federal government isn’t ready to embrace it.