Pubdate: Thu, 19 Apr 2012
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2012 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Wendy Stueck
Cited: Stop the Violence BC:


Former U.S. prosecutor links the trade in B.C. - grown marijuana to 
drug violence in Mexico and the United States

Linking the trade in B.C.-grown marijuana to drug violence in Mexico 
and the United States, a former U.S. federal prosecutor has added his 
voice to a growing chorus in favour of legalizing pot.

"Gangs affiliated with dangerous drug cartels are distributing 
marijuana grown in British Columbia - it's being exchanged for guns 
and cocaine that come up here [to British Columbia]," John McKay, a 
former U.S. federal prosecutor, said at a press conference in a 
downtown Vancouver hotel on Wednesday. "So the negative impact of 
that is more than just proceeds going to Mexican drug cartels, but 
also what's coming back to Canada because of this production."

Mr. McKay, who resigned from his attorney's role in 2007, was 
speaking at an event sponsored by Stop the Violence, a B.C.-based 
group comprising people from health, law enforcement and academia who 
are pushing for changes to Canada's drug policy.

Mr. McKay was involved in the prosecution of Marc Emery, B.C.'s 
so-called Prince of Pot.

At the event, Mr. McKay sat next to Mr. Emery's wife, Jodie, who has 
spoken in favour of legalizing marijuana.

Mr. McKay, who has previously spoken out in favour of legalization, 
said the criminal prohibition of marijuana fuels an illegal industry 
that threatens public safety on both sides of the border.

He favours taxing and regulation, citing Initiative 502, a Washington 
State measure that would regulate marijuana production and earmark 
revenues for areas including substance-abuse prevention and health care.

Mr. McKay obtained indictments for Mr. Emery, who was sentenced to 
five years in a U.S. prison in 2010 for selling marijuana seeds to 
customers in the United States through the mail.

Mr. McKay on Wednesday said he had no regrets about the prosecution, 
noting that Mr. Emery chose to break the law instead of working 
within it to push for change.

Several former B.C. attorneys-general and Vancouver mayors have 
joined a coalition of police, judges and health officials advocating 
for the marijuana policy reform.

Former B.C. attorney-general Geoff Plant, who also spoke at the 
event, said he had been "genuinely surprised" at the support for the 
group and its goals to regulate and tax marijuana, saying it's not an 
unrealistic goal.

Although Ottawa has jurisdiction, provincial governments can help 
shape policy, he said.

"The status quo always has a huge amount of inertia attached to it, 
even when the status quo is a failed public policy. And so you've got 
to mobilize to create the momentum to change," Mr. Plant said.

"I think the momentum is gathering from this campaign and will in 
fact persuade federal policy makers that they are out of step with 
the community consensus of Canadians and that it's time for federal change."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has conceded the situation now is flawed.

"I think what everyone believes and agrees with, and to be frank 
myself, is that the current approach is not working, but it is not 
clear what we should do," Mr. Harper told reporters at a news 
conference after the Summit of the Americas.

Bill C-10, passed in March, increases the penalties for drug crimes, 
including the imposition of a number of mandatory minimum sentences. 
Possession of six marijuana plants for the purposes of trafficking, 
for instance, would result in a mandatory six-month term.

- - With a report from the Canadian Press
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