Pubdate: Fri, 03 May 2013
Source: Goldstream Gazette (Victoria, CN BC)
Copyright: 2013 Black Press
Author: Daniel Palmer


Provincial politicians need to step up and reveal their views on the 
legalization of marijuana, according to several B.C. advocacy groups.

Ted Smith, former head of the Victoria-based Cannabis Buyers' Club of 
Canada, said the province needs to take action on the 
decriminalization of marijuana and stop deflecting responsibility 
onto the federal government.

"The provincial government (has always given) a lame-duck excuse that 
it's not their responsibility, because it's a federal law," Smith 
said. "But it is their responsibility, because the provinces and 
municipalities are paying for bad policy every day through our police 
departments. (The province) isn't even defending these laws at all 
anymore, they're just saying 'it's not our job.'"

Advocates argue public opinion has reached a tipping point, as 
evidenced by a recent Angus Reid poll that shows 73 per cent of 
British Columbians want the province to undertake a comprehensive 
pilot study on the regulation of marijuana.

Stop the Violence B.C., a multi-faceted lobby group including law 
enforcement and health officials, legal experts, academic 
professionals and current and former politicians, commissioned the poll.

The group argues a regulated marijuana market will improve public 
health and safety by taking the drug out of the hands of criminal 
organizations and allowing government to develop a message for its 
responsible use by adults.

"We manage to regulate one of the deadliest drugs, and that's 
tobacco, and we want to examine that same model ... for legalizing 
cannabis, much in the same way some of the U.S. states have done," 
said John Anderson, a criminologist at Vancouver Island University 
and a Stop the Violence B.C. member.

The poll also shows only 12 per cent of British Columbians would look 
unfavourably on their own political party for supporting a trial 
study on cannabis regulation.

Last September, the Union of B.C. Municipalities passed a resolution 
urging the federal government to consider decriminalizing marijuana 
possession, a crime that accounted for 54 per cent of all reported 
drug crimes in Canada in 2011, according to Statistics Canada numbers.

The onerous burden on police forces, as well as the health risks 
associated with an uncontrolled product, were two reasons given by 
the Canadian senate in 2002 when it recommended legalizing and 
regulating marijuana.

And a UNICEF research study released last month revealed that 28 per 
cent of Canadian children aged 11, 13 and 15 reported having used 
cannabis in 2009-2010, the highest reported use among 29 developed countries.

While the federal government has given no indication it would support 
marijuana regulation, preliminary action by provincial politicians is 
overdue, said Geoff Plant, former B.C. attorney general.

"British Columbians clearly want their politicians to show leadership 
on marijuana policy reform," he said in a statement. "With the 
province facing an election in a few weeks, now is the time for all 
political parties to let the public know whether they will support 
the proposed research trial of cannabis taxation and regulation."

Stop the Violence B.C. has sent a questionnaire to all B.C. 
candidates asking their opinion on cannabis legalization; organizers 
plan to release any responses before the election.

"Politicians are running out of excuses not to act," Anderson said. 
"You can't put your personal viewpoints ahead of what the science 
says. Criminalizing cannabis is leading to more violence in society, not less."

In Monday's televised debate, all four party leaders acknowledged 
current laws relating to marijuana are federal, but the NDP's Adrian 
Dix and Green's Jane Sterk reiterated their support for 
decriminalization. Premier Christy Clark avoided giving an opinion on 
the matter, while Conservative leader John Cummins said any changes 
would require discussions with Ottawa and the U.S.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom