Pubdate: Fri, 23 Dec 2011 Source: Prince George Free Press (CN BC) Copyright: 2011 BC Newspaper Group Contact: http://www.pgfreepress.com/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/2135 Author: DeLynda Pilon, Prince George Free Press Cited: Stop the Violence BC: http://stoptheviolencebc.org/ DECRIMINALIZATION OF MARIJUANA CALLED FOR 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." - --- MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.