Pubdate: Thu, 04 Oct 2012
Source: Pique Newsmagazine (CN BC)
Copyright: 2012 Pique Publishing Inc.
Author: Cathryn Atkinson


Whistler Mayor Supports UBMC Declaration on Marijuana Decriminalization

The Union of British Columbia Municipalities has passed a resolution 
in support of the decriminalization of marijuana, and Sea to Sky 
politicians say it is time for the laws to change.

The declaration was made at the conference in Victoria on Sept. 26.

Sales of the drug top billions of dollars in Canada per year and, 
among other things, proponents say legalization would lead to better 
monitoring and controls for the industry, as well as taxation for 
government coffers.

Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden voted in favour of the 
resolution, saying in a phone interview that it was time to take the 
criminal element out of the equation. "It seems to me that getting 
rid of grow operations is going to be the likely outcome if it is 
decriminalized and that's a good thing," she said. "It would be 
regulated. Prohibition has been a failed policy and the cultivation 
and trade of marijuana is in the hands of gangs. Those are primarily 
my reasons."

While the gang impact from the marijuana market has not had much 
effect on Whistler compared to other parts of British Columbia, it 
still remains important to the resort, Wilhelm-Morden said.

"It's more luck than anything. We do know that gangsters do come to 
Whistler from time to time, but for those communities that have heavy 
gang influence they've got a level of violence in the community that 
is simply unacceptable," she said.

The next step for the resolution is for the UBCM executive to liaise 
with the Ministry of Community Affairs regarding all of the 
resolutions made at the conference, including this one. The 
resolutions are not binding.

"We were talking at lunch about what will happen next as a result of 
this resolution, and someone said 'this is the way legalizing gay 
marriage started, by resolutions passed at organizations like UBCM'," 
Wilhelm-Morden said.

Wilhelm-Morden posted the result of the vote on her Facebook page, 
Nancy the Mayor, and got a mixed response.

"Sorry to hear that you voted in favour of decriminalizing marijuana 
because the criminals will NEVER give up trying to sell it," wrote 
Gord Gunner. "It is NOT good for you. I will NEVER support anybody or 
(a) politician that supports the use of marijuana. My respect for you 
madam mayor is starting to fade."

But Paul Fournier disagreed. "The reality of the situation is pot is 
never going away. I have known, and know, many people lose the life 
battle because tobacco and or alcohol. It only makes sense to take 
out the criminals," he wrote.

Squamish councillor Bryan Raiser, a user of medical marijuana, was 
also at the conference and voted in favour.

"It used to be everyone was talking about medical marijuana. No one 
wanted to touch (recreational use); 'deal with medical, it's a safer 
thing to deal with,'" he said. "This time everyone is basically fed 
up. We have a law that doesn't work. There was a four-hour discussion 
on it on Monday and the speakers were overwhelmingly supportive. Even 
the status-quo guys, for lack of a better word, said something has to change."

Raiser said he saw the resolution as a good step towards forcing the 
conversation at the provincial and federal level.

"That is where it should be, but they just haven't had the... courage 
to deal with the issue," he said.

"The confidence that people have in speaking about it, there's no 
stigma attached to it anymore, although some people have trouble 
talking about it without making jokes."

The debate at the UBCM was heated, he said. One representative from 
the interior of B.C. didn't want to see marijuana decriminalized 
because too many people there are making money from it illegally.

"Many communities would not exist (without it)... It's such a huge 
topic. Do you legalize it? Do you decriminalize it?" he said. 
"Another good point brought up is that you have three options to 
regulate marijuana: the gangs will regulate it, big business will 
regulate it or government will regulate it? Which do we want?"
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom