Pubdate: Thu, 29 Aug 2013
Source: Chief, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2013 Whistler Printing & Publishing
Author: Paul Martiquet
Note: Dr. Paul Martiquet is Medical Health Officer for Rural 
Vancouver Coastal Health.


For many years, the default approach to marijuana has been 
prohibition. That this has not worked well is beyond doubt and the 
time has come to find a better approach. The answer, according to the 
group Sensible B.C., is to decriminalize simple possession and 
redirect policing budgets to more effective pursuits.

The reasons for decriminalizing pot possession are simple. First are 
the cost savings as we spend less to prosecute people for simple 
possession. In B.C., the number of possession charges has more than 
doubled since 2005 - we should spend scarce budget dollars more 
effectively. Public safety would be improved if police officers and 
resources were focussed on real crime instead of charging people with 

Public opinion shows most British Columbians agree that possession of 
cannabis should not lead to a criminal record; two-thirds support 
marijuana being legally taxed and regulated. These views are 
consistent in all regions of the province and among voters for all parties.

Sensible B.C. is working to decriminalize the simple possession of 
cannabis through the Sensible Policing Act 
( The proposal would amend 
the Police Act to redirect all police from taking action in cases of 
simple cannabis possession by adults.

Some may question the need for a change in legislation, but much of 
what we think about cannabis in B.C. is misconceived. Many think 
marijuana possession is "basically legal" in BC. Not true: B.C. has 
Canada's highest rate of police-reported incidents for simple 
possession of marijuana and B.C. police spend about twice as much 
time and money as the national average on dealing with marijuana 
possession. And the rate of possession charges in BC has been 
steadily increasing for years, as has the cost to taxpayers.

The need for the Sensible Policing Act is made all the clearer when 
we consider who is in favour of the change. We start with the Health 
Officers Council of B.C., who state, "It is our view that all 
psychoactive substances, including cannabis, alcohol, and tobacco 
should be regulated from a public health perspective."

Supporters also include Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), 
four former B.C. attorneys general. Even the Canadian Association of 
Chiefs of Police finds current laws unworkable. This month, the 
association asked for the power to hand out tickets for illegal 
possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Sensible B.C. is spearheading a referendum initiative that starts 
Sept. 9. The goal is to gather 400,000 signatures. If they accomplish 
this, there will be a referendum in 2014 to decriminalize marijuana possession.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom