Four of the province’s former attorneys general want marijuana legalized to curb gang activity associated with the illegal drug trade.
New Westminster’s Graeme Bowbrick, along with Colin Gabelmann, Ujjal Dosanjh, and Geoff Plant, signed an open letter on the issue, addressed to Premier Christy Clark and B.C. New Democrat leader Adrian Dix.
The letter was posted on the Stop the Violence B.C. coalition’s website on Tuesday.
The letter from the attorneys general endorsed the coalition and urged the politicians to endorse legalizing, regulating and taxing pot.
“The case demonstrating the failure and harms of marijuana prohibition is airtight,” the letter stated. “The evidence? Massive profits for organized crime, widespread gang violence, easy access to illegal cannabis for our youth, reduced community safety, and significant – and escalating – costs to taxpayers.”
The criminal justice system is overburdened and needs to focus its resources on serious crime, according to Neil Boyd, a professor with Simon Fraser University’s school of criminology.
Boyd joined the Stop the Violence B.C. coalition after being approached by Dr. Evan Wood, who started the coalition.
Boyd has advocated for marijuana law reform for many years, he said.
“Unlike the other illegal drugs, which are used by less than one per cent of the population, marijuana is used by more than 10 per cent of the population,” he said. “Given that it isn’t nearly as dangerous a drug, for most people in most circumstances, from a public health perspective, as alcohol or tobacco.”
It makes more sense to regulate and tax it, Boyd added, particularly because under prohibition it is a driving force for gang violence.
“Of course, in an illegal industry, you can’t go to the Better Business Bureau to complain about the conduct of your associates, you can’t go to court for damages,” he said. “So in some circumstances, violence is the end result.”
The attorneys general released the letter following a number of public shootings in Vancouver and Surrey during the past month, which police have indicated are likely gang-related.
The most high profile incident was the shooting death of Sandip Duhre at the Wall Centre Hotel in Vancouver on Jan. 17.
The letter asks that the provincial politicians encourage the federal government to get rid of minimum sentences for minor and non-violent marijuana-related offences, and focus on taxing and regulating marijuana to “protect community health and safety while at the same time undermining gang profits.”
However, Boyd thinks it is unlikely that the current federal government will make the changes, as the Conservative government is moving forward on its proposed crime bill, which would require a minimum term of six months in jail for anyone found in possession of more than six pot plants.
But governments change, he added. As well as endorsing the Stop the Violence coalition – composed of academics, current and former police officers, doctors and others who see a link between marijuana prohibition and gang violence – the attorneys general pointed out that B.C.’s Health Officers Council and the Fraser Institute both support the taxation and regulation of marijuana.
The letter also mentioned a recent Angus Reid poll, commissioned by the coalition, that found that 77 per cent of British Columbians did not agree that marijuana possession should be a criminal offence and that 78 per cent said they were dissatisfied with the way politicians at the provincial level responded to problems stemming from the illegal marijuana industry.
“Laws that more aggressively enforce prohibition are obviously not the solution,” Graeme Bowbrick, attorney general from 2000 to 2001, said in the release. “It’s time for our politicians to listen to their constituents and reconsider our failed approach to cannabis policy.”
The attorneys general are not the only public and political figures calling for an end to marijuana prohibition.
Last month, the federal Liberal Party voted in favour of marijuana legalization, and last fall, four former Vancouver mayors also endorsed an end to prohibition.
Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan told the NOW last fall that he could not endorse the legalization of marijuana in an official capacity but said on a personal level he thought the government should end the prohibition on pot.
A decision to legalize marijuana has to come from the federal government, Premier Christy Clark said at a press conference on Tuesday, adding that she won’t get involved.
“I am going to leave the marijuana debate to the federal government,” Clark said.
The NDP has said that marijuana should be decriminalized.
Clark refused to answer a question from reporters on whether she’d smoked marijuana. Dix said he had once, in 1989, and he didn’t enjoy it.
Julie Di Mambro, press secretary for federal justice minister Rob Nicholson, did not address the issue of legalization in her statement to the NOW but made it clear things are not going to change any time soon.
“Our government is committed to ensuring criminals are held fully accountable for their actions and that the safety and security of law-abiding Canadians come first in Canada’s judicial system,” she wrote in an email. “We will continue to fight crime and protect Canadians so that our communities are safe places for people to live, raise their families and do business.”
News Hawk – 420 Warrior 420 MAGAZINE
Location: BC, Canada
Source: The Burnaby Now
Author: Janaya Fuller-Evans
Contact: [email protected]
Copyright: 2012 Lower Mainland Publishing Group Inc.