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West Hollywood Wants To Legalize Pot Use

Ashraf Khalil and Arin Gencer, Los Angeles Times, 21st June 2006

First West Hollywood officials required that pet owners be known as "pet guardians." Then they banned cat declawing and even considered outlawing pet cosmetic surgery.

On Monday, the Westside town famous for its novel municipal lawmaking took a stab at legalizing the recreational use of small amounts of marijuana. But achieving that goal might prove difficult.

The City Council approved a resolution that urges the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department to make marijuana-related offenses a "low priority" that deputies should largely ignore.

In doing so, it became the first city in Southern California to request that its law enforcement agency look the other way at recreational pot use and target only the sale of marijuana.

The vote was taken despite concerns from some residents and top aides of Sheriff Lee Baca, who had urged the council to delay the vote.

Councilman John Duran proposed the resolution, saying that deputies have more important things to worry about than arresting people with small amounts of pot. Instead, he said, deputies could focus on more destructive drugs like crystal methamphetamine.

"We've seen that marijuana use is certainly no more dangerous and destructive than alcohol use," Duran said. "The whole 'reefer madness' hysteria has worn thin."

Duran said he knew that the resolution would put Baca in an "awkward position," but said it was important for the city to take a stand.

"I don't think we were ever going to get the sheriff to support it," he said.

San Francisco and Oakland have passed similar rules. But unlike those cities, West Hollywood lacks its own police force. Instead it contracts with the county sheriff for police services.

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