Nick Taiber, Cedar Falls City Council – De-prioritizing MJ
At their January 5, 2015 meeting the Cedar Falls City Council narrowly defeated (3-4) a motion to create a resolution de-emphasizing marijuana enforcement, demonstrating that the marijuana conversation is moving from the state capital to the dinner tables of Iowa. For the past three years Council member Nick Taiber has been working with the Cedar Valley Citizens for Undoing Racism and their War on Drugs Task Force. This past fall he reached out to NORML to assist on drafting ordinance and/or resolution language for Iowa. Although the topic of decriminalization of marijuana was originally rejected by the city council, it was eventually forced to discuss the issue after being picked up by the Waterloo Courier.
Allen Hays, a retired University of Northern Iowa political science professor and member of Cedar Valley Citizens for Undoing Racism spoke to the council meeting about this topic. “As we’ve gotten more into the issue, we’ve come to raise a lot of questions about the overall wisdom and efficacy of the war on drugs, especially marijuana. We are taking young people who maybe made a foolish decision and we are harming them throughout the rest of their lives by making this an aggravated misdemeanor or a felony,” Hays said. “Admittedly, the drugs can harm them. I’m not saying they don’t. But we’re adding to the harm.”
In Iowa possession of 15 grams of marijuana can lead to six months imprisonment or a $1,000 fine. Getting caught a second time with a small quantity of marijuana could lead to a year in prison, two years for a third conviction.
Hays repeated his group’s argument that an extreme racial disparity exists when it comes to marijuana arrests. According to a 2013 American Civil Liberties Union study on the subject, African-Americans in Iowa are eight times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession, even though they use it at the same rate.
“It’s hard for some of us in the majority to admit this, but drug enforcement grossly disproportionately targets African-Americans and other people of color,” Hays said. “It has a devastating impact on their communities.”
Taiber argued that the city has the authority to instruct police officers which laws to prioritize noting that the council recently directed police to step up enforcement of property and maintenance code violations. “We already do this today, we use discretion every time we don’t pull someone over for speeding or jaywalking. I think this absolutely is a prioritization effort for our council,” Taiber said. “And when we start to analyze the effects and how it actually destroys lives and puts people in prison, I feel compelled to act.”
Nicholas Taiber is a member of the Iowa Libertarian party. “Acting locally, Libertarians can influence the national and state debate. Now is the time to begin your election strategy for your council, school board, or local commission.”