Pubdate: Fri, 23 Dec 2011
Source: Prince George Free Press (CN BC)
Copyright: 2011 BC Newspaper Group
Author: DeLynda Pilon, Prince George Free Press
Cited: Stop the Violence BC:


The way the government handles marijuana usage is not only ineffective 
but has become a public health issue and leads to organized crime 
having control over a vastly profitable enterprise, the effects of 
which are being felt in many cities, including Prince George.

Stop The Violence BC, a group made up of criminologists, law 
enforcement officials and public health officials, released a report 
showing the link between organized crime and the sale of marijuana 
this fall and followed up with another report this week about how the 
drug is having a detrimental effect on public health and safety 
because of the laws surrounding it.

The Health Officers Council of B.C., which recently shared a similar 
report, unanimously supports the release by Stop the Violence BC.

"The Health Officers Council of B.C. has its own document which is 
very much aligned with this document," said Dr. Paul Hasselback, council chair.

He said that a regulated approach to marijuana use would work better 
than what is currently being done, which ties violence and financial 
abuse to a drug which is easy to get and is grown locally.

A rational science-based approach to improve public health would be 
better, he said.

"At this point we're talking about having a dialogue and using 
evidence to make decisions, rather than handing out maximum sentences."

Many British Columbians, he said, understand that in many ways alcohol 
is more dangerous than marijuana.

"The Health Officer's Council and other experts are not saying that 
marijuana should be legalized and taxed because it is safe. We are 
saying that proven public health approaches should be used to 
constrain its use. There is now more danger to the public's health in 
perpetuating a market driven by criminal activity," Hasselback said in 
a press release.

Dr. Evan Woods, a founder of Stop the Violence BC, explained illegal 
drug sales are a $7 billion per year industry in B.C., and much of 
that can be attributed to marijuana because of its popularity.

"We don't grow opium and we don't export opium. There is a huge 
domestic market for marijuana and a massive export market. It's a huge 
industry which is now controlled by increasingly violent groups. The 
laws of supply and demand are in effect here. There is no amount of 
law enforcement that can solve this problem."

He added the effect of government policy has been an astronomical 
failure, something that can be proven by their own data. Strict laws 
were put in place to reduce supply and potency, but the opposite happened.

"No one is protected by these laws. We are advocating for a free 
market approach without promotion. We want the strict regulator 
controls which have been so effective when it comes to tobacco."
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MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.