No, Bloomington cannot decriminalize marijuana

Democratic candidate for mayor John Linnemeier made headlines earlier this week when he proposed that the city decriminalize marijuana. The problem with this is that city government has no authority to decriminalize marijuana or any other illegal drug. That is a state law, not a local law.

While I agree with Linnemeier on the issue itself, he did himself no favors with this proposal, which made him look like he does not understand the powers and responsibilities of local and state government in Indiana. If you want to be Mayor,you need to demonstrate that you know what city government does and does not have the authority to do. Proposing that the city do something the city cannot do indicates that you are “not ready for prime time.”

What the city does have the authority to do is change the enforcement priorities for the police department. The Republican candidate for mayor in 2003 expressed concern over police “harassing” students when they are walking home from a bar. (Which is what we want them to do, instead of driving.) Linnemeier could use his authority as mayor to instruct police to place less emphasis on marijuana infractions. State police, of course, can continue to enforce the law. The Indiana University Police Department can do the same.

I mocked the Libertarian Party for being “the party of dope” a few years ago, and I also have to question the priorities of a candidate for Mayor who makes marijuana decriminalization a top issue – especially when he does not have the authority to decriminalize anything. If Linnemeier wants to change marijuana policy in the state, he should run for state legislator or governor. Perhaps Linnemeier and Brent Steele can join forces to make this a bipartisan effort.

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