On Tuesday, the Riverside City Council voted 4 to 3 to prohibit marijuana businesses in the city.
In doing so, the Riverside City Council made clear that it is incapable of properly representing the will of the public on marijuana policy. Most Riverside voters supported Proposition 64 in 2016, including majorities of voters in six of the city’s seven city council wards.
Councilmen Steve Adams and Chuck Conder in particular indulged in plenty of reefer madness. Channeling the comical fearmongering of the 1930s over marijuana, they whipped up concerns about crime, about the children, about murder. It’s a worldview that puts them not only in the minority in Riverside, but in the country.
There’s a reason increasing numbers of states have pursued and implemented marijuana legalization. There’s a reason Democrats and Republicans in Congress have repeatedly united to introduce federal marijuana decriminalization bills. And there’s a reason President Trump has indicated his support for ending federal marijuana prohibition and leaving it to the states.
Most people understand that prohibition is a failure, that prohibition doesn’t mean that marijuana just goes away and that prohibition ultimately does more harm than good. But Chuck Conder, Steve Adams, Jim Perry and Chris MacArthur aren’t among them, and see it as their responsibility to perpetuate the folly of prohibition.
In contrast, other members of the council seemed to at least understand that rushing to prohibition does the public a disservice.
Councilman Mike Soubirous, for example, noted that the city could just as easily prohibit liquor stores on the same grounds the marijuana prohibitionists wanted to prohibit marijuana. What an absurdity that would be — right? Now carry that recognition of absurdity to the proposed marijuana prohibition. Same issues at hand.
Neither prohibition nor legalization are a panacea, but legalization offers more control and revenue to address the negative consequences of marijuana or alcohol use, while mitigating the black market and all that comes with it.
Councilman Andy Melendrez, meanwhile, rightly called out the “scare tactics” and incomplete information gathering to justify prohibition. While the prohibitionists cited everything negative about marijuana legalization in Colorado, they didn’t offer the other side of things. Nor did the council adequately consider the experiences of the other states that have legalized marijuana — or even their own neighbors.
Last I checked, the sky hasn’t fallen in Palm Springs after several years of permitting medical marijuana dispensaries to operate.
Alas, there’s no good in looking to the Riverside City Council for leadership on this issue in keeping with the views of the majority of Riverside voters. It’s apparent a ballot initiative will be needed to do the work the council is unwilling and incapable of doing.
Sal Rodriguez is an editorial writer and columnist for the Southern California News Group. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org