Nick Taiber, city councilman at large for Cedar Falls, Iowa, recently proposed decriminalizing marijuana within Cedar Fall’s city limits. Taiber explained his proposal on his blog:
I proposed we consider a non-enforcement policy of cannabis statutes in our city. While no city can make a law in conflict with State and Federal law, we can certainly establish local policy for the enforcement of our laws. Our policing focus should always be on crimes of most critical concern – crimes against other people and property. I believe in personal choice (medical or recreational) as long as that choice doesn’t infringe on the rights and liberties of another.
If this proposal becomes city law, the city would direct police to refocus their resources and time on violent crimes and spend little to no time policing marijuana usage. When asked about the proposal, Cedar Falls Police Chief Jeff Olson explained that “if a state law says marijuana is illegal, that’s something I need to enforce.” Though Cedar Falls may not currently have the support of the local police force, the executive director of the Iowa League of Cities, Alan Kemp, stated that the Cedar Falls City Council has both the capability to pass such a law and the authority to enforce it through their local police officers. However, a city-wide decriminalization law will not stop or even limit the Black Hawk County Sheriff’s department from making marijuana related arrests because the city council does not have authority over county policing.
Cedar Falls is not the first city in Iowa to address decriminalization through a city council proposal. An Iowa City councilman proposed the idea last spring. Taiber contended that both the recent Iowa City proposal and the ACLU’s philosophy of legalization occurring on the local level inspired him to suggest the proposal. It bears noting that in May, Iowa’s Governor, Terry Branstad, signed into law an act to allow for usage of certain medical cannabidoils for a limited and specific list of diseases.
Iowa is slowly moving towards addressing cannabis liberalization and the ACLU is not the only marijuana advocacy group active here in Iowa. NORML, a marijuana legalization advocacy group has started a chapter in Iowa and students at Iowa State University have also begun their own chapter, receiving funding from their Student Government Association. Cedar Falls is home to the University of Northern Iowa, one of Iowa’s three state universities, yet despite Taiber’s recent city council proposal, NORML has yet to form a chapter on UNI’s campus.
We always prefer statewide liberalization to local changes and we are also not big fans of decriminalization, as opposed to legalization. For why that is the case, please check out Marijuana Decriminalization Versus Legalization: A Difference That Matters and Is Marijuana Legal Where You Are? Are You Sure? But we also are realists and we recognize that sometimes you just have to start somewhere. So we heartily applaud those in Iowa seeking to liberalize its laws and to keep its youth out of jail for pot.