Token Pot Shot: A new initiative would keep Santa Cruz at the cutting edge of marijuana legislation.
Will locals vote to put pot-related enforcement at the bottom of the cops' to-do list?
By Leyna Krow
The city of Santa Cruz sure does love its dope. At least that's the assumption Santa Cruz Citizens for Sensible Marijuana Policy are banking on as they work to get an initiative on November's ballot that would make marijuana-related crimes the lowest enforcement priority for Santa Cruz police.
"I don't think that responsible adults should be punished for recreational use. And the vast majority of citizens in this city seem to feel the same way," said initiative proponent Craig Reinarman.
The initiative follows over a decade's worth of pro-marijuana legislation in the city of Santa Cruz. Measure A, passed in 1992, set the groundwork for medical marijuana cooperatives such as the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM). In 2003, following the aptly numbered statewide bill, A.B. 420, which allows cities to set their own regulations regarding just how much pot patients can possess at any one time, the city of Santa Cruz passed an ordinance allowing card-carrying medical marijuana users up to 3 pounds of cannabis.
According to Reinarman, "Santa Cruz has voted in the past in very powerful majorities in favor of medical marijuana and decriminalization."
This most recent initiative is designed to protect adult users, be they medical marijuana patients or simply recreational enthusiasts, from arrest and prosecution. If enacted, a "community oversight committee" would be formed to which Santa Cruz police would submit biweekly accounts of all marijuana-related arrests. The committee would then decide whether or not the arrest had been in keeping with the spirit of the law.
According to Theodora Kerry of Santa Cruz CSMP, "The oversight committee is what will gives this policy teeth. This is what will make police accountable."
Offenses not protected by the initiative include selling to minors, sales or distribution on public property, and driving under the influence.
Santa Cruz CSMP modeled their initiative after Measure Z, which Oakland passed in 2004. Concerned that tax dollars which could be spent on social programs were instead going to waste enforcing unpopular regulations, the people of Oakland voted by a sizable majority in favor of low priority enforcement of marijuana-related crimes. It is the hope of the Santa Cruz CSMP that Santa Cruz voters will do the same.
"This would free up police to focus on legitimate safety concerns in the community," said Kerry. "Nobody is safer because someone doesn't get to smoke a joint tonight."
Santa Cruz CSMP will begin collecting signatures for the initiative in early February. Supporters are required to gather 3,423 signatures by April 20, 2006, in order for the initiative to be on the November 2006 ballot.
For more information about Santa Cruz Citizens for Sensible Marijuana Policy, call 831.420.2772 or stop by the Compassion Flower Inn at 216 Laurel St., Santa Cruz.
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