Pubdate: Sat, 04 Jul 2015
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2015 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Ian Mulgrew
Page: A16


Learn from U.S.: Instead of blazing some misguided trail, Vancouver
must put its resources into regulating marijuana in B.C.

Secret illegal marijuana home-grow operations - how are they working
for you, Surrey? White Rock? Abbotsford? It must take at least 100
such guerrilla cannabis production centres to supply Vancouver's
burgeoning pot shops.

While Vansterdam-on-the-Pacific's council tries to reap a harvest of
$30,000 licensing fees from the scores of prohibited dispensaries it
has allowed, our neighbours can enjoy the fallout - the opportunity to
earn a little mortgage relief with a basement garden.

Canadian municipalities spent most of the last decade lobbying Ottawa
to change the medical pot program to eradicate "the scourge" of
residential medical grow-ops because of health, fire and public safety

That was one of the biggest changes April 1 when the Conservatives
introduced the new free market, mail-order supply system for approved
patients - no more grow operations.

Vancouver now claims it is "fixing" the federal government's mistake
with a bylaw that licences illegal retail storefronts with no
legitimate wholesale suppliers who are dependant on illegal growers.

That other cities will soon embrace this bylaw is unlikely, unless
they want to denounce their own fire and police departments.

There is no evidence or experience to support this coffee house-style
approach, some in Amsterdam that indicates it doesn't work and plenty
pointing to the proper strategy - legalization with a multi-faceted
regulatory system that addresses impaired driving, advertising, retail
sales, taxes =C2=85.

You can't make gin in your bathtub and sell it on the corner as an
elixir of life, and Bayer can't push Aspirin in whatever form it likes
no matter all the magical properties of willow bark, which like
cannabis was used for centuries as a herbal cure before it was
synthesized into ASA.

The trouble with the pot debate at the moment is it is clouded by the
ignorant, the ideological and the self-interested - count council among

While the weed might be relatively benign, the highly concentrated
derivative products such as cannabis capsules now being sold are not
necessarily so.

There isn't even proper labelling at the moment to allow consumers to
make informed personal safety choices.

Why would you allow anyone to peddle such products without regard for
the federal law or public health concerns?

Vancouver's bylaw encourages the growth of a privileged class of
cannabis consumers operating outside the law who have no interest in
ending the prohibition because they are OK.

In Washington state, the existence of a similar vocal community made
it more difficult to achieve legalization because they were happy with
the old status quo that recognized their rights.

We should be following the example of jurisdictions who avoided that

In both Colorado and Washington, coalitions of smart people from
different levels of government conducted research, looked at the
evidence, addressed the conflict between national and state political
desires and drafted comprehensive laws to legalize marijuana embracing
land-use concerns, security, advertising restrictions, production and
retail tax rates, how the tax money should be spent, etc.

Two other states have since followed suit.

That is where city council should be spending its energy - working for
marijuana legalization in B.C.

Vancouver should be leading the broad group of serious, well-placed
people who already recognize the prohibition must end.

Barely three years ago, in April 2012, the former U.S. attorney who
prosecuted Marc Emery came to Vancouver to promote legalization and
the founding of a coalition devoted to that end.

John McKay, the once high profile American federal prosecutor
appointed by president George W. Bush, along with former B.C.
attorneys general Geoff Plant, Ujjal Dosanjh and Colin Gabelmann, sang
the same chorus: Marijuana must be taxed and regulated because it
provides too much cash to gangsters and fuels too much violence.

Three former mayors, Larry Campbell, Sam Sullivan and Philip Owen,
replied with a hearty "Amen."

The organization Stop the Violence BC hoped to overturn the
prohibition. "The government's own data shows young people have easier
access to marijuana than alcohol or tobacco," insisted Dr. Evan Wood,
a founder.

Within a year, Washington state had legalized and in B.C. the group
was supporting a pot referendum brandishing an Angus Reid Public
Opinion poll that indicated 75 per cent of the province supported
legalization. They failed because cities like Vancouver sat on their

Instead of committing resources and its clout to that goal, Vancouver
now is blazing its own misguided trail - pretending to protect our
children by making sure they have to walk at least 300 metres from
school to the closest pot shop and frowning on the sale of cookies and
candy bars.

Meanwhile B.C. Attorney General Suzanne Anton, who is responsible for
policing in the province, continues to maintain a deafening silence as
the city and its police force place distracted driving above organized
crime as a priority. Talk about an abdication of responsibility.
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