Pubdate: Fri, 04 Sep 2015
Source: Vancouver 24hours (CN BC)
Copyright: 2015 Vancouver 24 hrs.
Page: 5


We start our federal election weekly series on the issue of marijuana 
legalization, a hotly debated topic in B.C

Who doesn't like B.C. bud? It's a big deal in the province, home to a 
significant number of both legal and illegal growers, and to people 
like the Prince of Pot himself, Marc Emery.

In a poll earlier this summer, Insights West found 67% of British 
Columbians supported the legalization of marijuana in Canada - only 
7% thought pot should always be illegal without exception.

There was so much interest in the herb locally that at one point, 
half of Health Canada's 40,000 patients under the old marijuana 
access regulations were in B.C.

Even today, the province's six licensed producers - the highest count 
next to Ontario's 14 - indicates the continued interest in cannabis.

On the illegal side, according to RCMP data, more than 19,000 plants 
were seized in properties around B.C. - from Surrey to Quesnel - 
between November 2014 to February this year. These are just the ones 
that were caught.

One just has to take a look in Vancouver to see how reefer madness 
has gripped the province. The city is home to an enormous number of 
marijuana dispensaries who operate outside the law, yet the vast 
majority conduct their operations without interference from police.

It's gotten to such an issue that Vancouver City Hall has enacted 
regulations requiring all for-profit dispensaries to pay $30,000 per 
year in fees as an attempt to regulate the growing industry.

CONSERVATIVES Incumbent Stephen Harper is straightforward on his 
stance against drugs. His plan for the country includes a 20% funding 
increase towards RCMP's anti-drug operations that specifically target 
clandestine labs and grow operations. His message is simple. Drugs 
ruin lives, rob youth of their future, tear families apart, make the 
streets less safe, and destroy communities. Harper has stated 
recently that, where marijuana is legal, it becomes more available to 
kids, people get addicted and health outcomes decline. He said 
marijuana use is currently declining, and cautioned against the 
dangers of reversing that trend - comparing the drug to tobacco.

NDP The New Democrats under Thomas Mulcair's leadership haven't had 
too much to say on the issue of pot, but it's clear decriminalization 
is where the NDP stands on it. In a press conference in B.C. 
recently, Mulcair told reporters no one should "ever" face criminal 
charges or have a record for the personal use of marijuana. He even 
suggested an elected NDP government would examine the issue of those 
already charged and convicted of personal possession. "The NDP's 
position is to decriminalize the minute we form government - that's 
something we can do right away," he said.

LIBERALS Justin Trudeau's Liberals have formed into a rallying cry of 
sorts for pot activists across B.C. ever since the Liberals announced 
their intention to legalize and regulate the drug, much like how 
alcohol is dealt with today. Trudeau's view is that keeping pot 
illegal makes it easier for youth to obtain it, and that legalizing 
marijuana would take the substance off the black market. "If we pass 
smart laws that tax and strictly regulate marijuana, we can better 
protect our kids, while preventing millions of dollars from going 
into the pockets of criminal organizations and street gangs," the 
Liberal position states.

GREENS The Greens under Elizabeth May have just two members in 
parliament, but their plan for pot is specific. The party agenda says 
in general addictions should be seen as a health problem, not a 
criminal one. May seeks to remove pot from the schedule of illegal 
substances, regulate small-scale independent marijuana growers, tax 
the drug, and license its medicinal or personal-use sales. However, 
the party would move to ban all advertising for marijuana products, 
and target a reduction in marijuana use in the same way current 
anti-tobacco programs do, as part of a "smoke-free Canada" goal.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom