WEST HOLLYWOOD - This little city has some big political ideas.
It was one of the first cities in the nation to ban indoor smoking in public places and to call for businesses to offer benefits to domestic partners of employees.
Now the enclave of coffee shops, bookstores and nightclubs wedged between Hollywood and Beverly Hills has aimed its lance at marijuana law with a nonbinding resolution urging deputies that patrol the city to go easy on pot smokers.
"We didn't declare it legal, but declared the sheriff should spend more time pursuing people that do more serious crimes," said Hernan G. Molina, deputy to Councilman John J. Duran, who sponsored the resolution.
The resolution is unlikely to have a major impact on its own. But taken with successful ballot measures in bigger cities like Denver and Seattle that limit punishment for possessing small amounts of marijuana, it reflects what could be a shifting attitude across the country.
"The municipalities are moving ahead of the feds," said Patrick Murphy, a drug policy expert at the Public Policy Institute of California in San Francisco.
"We're starting to see some folks that are saying the laws on the books are still on the books, but maybe we're going to treat them a little differently. And maybe that's a precursor to getting them off the books," Murphy said.
The West Hollywood City Council on Monday unanimously declared that it's not city policy to target marijuana possession and consumption by adults in their homes. It did, however, urge the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, which patrols the city, to keep pursuing dealers, young users and people who smoke pot in public.
It was the latest in a series of moves that have put the city ahead of the political curve - and sometimes completely off the chart - since its incorporation in 1984.
Known for its gay community, the city of 35,000 people was one of the first in the country to recognize domestic partnerships. It was a leader in supporting medical marijuana use and outlawing the sale of Saturday night specials - the small, cheap handguns that city leaders said contribute to violent crime.
One city resolution urged Congress to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays in the military.
The marijuana resolution was also meant to send a message.
"Marijuana should be legalized and regulated," Molina said. "In order for the federal government to get it, smaller communities have to start doing things to send the message upward."
On the ground in West Hollywood, residents and authorities said little was likely to change as a result of the resolution.
One reason is the city does not directly oversee the Sheriff's Department. Instead, it contracts with the agency rather than fielding its own police department.
Another is the resolution won't supersede state and federal drug laws that don't require the arrest of people found with less than an ounce of the drug.
Only 139 of the 6,900 drug offenses reported in the area from Jan. 1, 2005, to Jan. 31, 2006, resulted in marijuana citations, said sheriff's Capt. David J. Long, commander of the West Hollywood substation.
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