On January 22 in Washington, D.C., Boston University published its 2018 Menino Survey of Mayors, which shows that a majority of U.S. mayors surveyed support legalization.

The survey of “a representative sample of 110 mayors from 37 states” also shows that on the issue of legalization, there is a “polarizing” divide between Republican and Democratic mayors. Specifically, “While nearly two-thirds of Democrats favor legalizing, two-thirds of Republican mayors oppose the action. Overall, a slight majority favors legalizing and regulating marijuana.”

The specific statement the mayors addressed was: “Marijuana should be legalized, regulated, and legally sold in your city.” Fifty-five percent agreed with the statement, and 35 percent disagreed. The remainder neither agreed nor disagreed. Among Democrats, the rate was 62% agree, 22% disagree, and 16% neither. Among Republicans, 25% agree, 67% disagree, and 8% neither.

The Menino Survey was initiated in 2014. That year’s report does not mention marijuana, but the 2015 report lists federal marijuana legislation as among the items on a list that some mayors said “they would most like to see repealed or changed.” The 2016 report also mentions marijuana reform only in passing, listing it as one of the less-mentioned policy items that mayors would address if they were “not constrained by electoral concerns.” The 2017 report does not mention marijuana. That the survey question was added in 2018 is a sign of how legalization’s spread across the states is affecting the political dialogue.

The Conference of Mayors

Mayors of the United States were ahead of the curve on this political issue, however. In 2013, for example, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, a nonpartisan group of the nation’s mayors of cities, passed a resolution calling for the legalization of medical cannabis. The conference also resolved that “federal laws, including the Controlled Substance Act, should be amended to explicitly allow states to set their own marijuana policies without federal interference.” In the years since, the conference has passed numerous resolutions on marijuana reform. In 2018, the conference approved resolutions calling for federal descheduling and local expungement of records of low-level marijuana crimes. As AP reports, that same year saw the forming of a coalition of mayors from Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, and West Sacramento to petition the federal government for reform. Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock said: “As mayors of cities that have successfully implemented and managed this new industry, we have hands-on experience that can help Congress take the right steps to support other local governments as they prepare to enter this new frontier. We all face common challenges.” Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler was blunt: “Cannabis prohibition has failed. It has failed to keep our children safe, it has failed law enforcement, and it has especially failed communities of color disproportionately targeted and prosecuted for low-level drug offenses.”

Also in 2018, Gavin Newsom, the former mayor of San Francisco, was elected governor of California. In Florida, the mayor of Tallahassee, Andrew Gillum, lost the race for governor by a less than a percent. As today’s mayors become tomorrow’s governors, legalization is likely to become a more common policy plank.

What do you think? Will Republican mayors change their minds about legalization? Leave a comment below.

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