HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Vancouver To Press Ottawa To Legalize And Tax Marijuana
Pubdate: Wed, 08 Jun 2005
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2005 The Vancouver Sun
Author: Frances Bula
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


Mayor Larry Campbell Backs Controversial Proposal As Part Of Strategy To 
Fight Drug Abuse

A City of Vancouver report backed by the mayor recommends Canada legalize 
and regulate marijuana as part of a comprehensive drug-abuse prevention 
strategy for everything from methamphetamine production to alcoholism among 

The marijuana recommendation, one of two dozen in the report being released 
today, would allow people trying to prevent drug abuse to talk to teenagers 
about it realistically, the way they do with alcohol and cigarettes, and 
also limit dangerous use.

It's a strategy that Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell endorses 
wholeheartedly, saying it's preferable to decriminalization, which imposes 
a fine instead of a criminal charge for use, but doesn't address the issue 
of supply.

"I think the decriminalization doesn't do anybody any good. It sends the 
message that it's okay, but that it's a crime to obtain it." He says if 
marijuana were legalized, the community could benefit by being able to tax 

Campbell, a one-time RCMP drug officer, acknowledges that Vancouver's stand 
won't produce immediate change.

"It's a talking point, but clearly it's something that has to be done in 

The report goes to council June 14 and then out for public discussion, 
before final approval likely next January.

Others say that putting marijuana on the same level as alcohol and tobacco 
legally would allow teachers and prevention counsellors to talk about it 
strategically, rather than just avoiding the topic.

"All that teachers can do now is say it's illegal," says the city's drug 
policy coordinator Don MacPherson, who wrote the 67-page report.

If marijuana was treated like alcohol, he said, teachers could provide the 
same kind of advice they do when trying to prevent teenagers from risky 
drinking behaviour.

However, he also emphasized that Canada should learn from the mistakes it 
made with alcohol and tobacco, which have been turned into commercial 
products, heavily advertised and promoted, which has led to problems 
stemming from the abuse of those two substances that far exceeds those of 
illegal drugs.

The report notes that "even with the best prevention strategies anywhere in 
the world, we are limited in what we can do unless there are changes to the 
legal frameworks for psychoactive substances. The current system of 
prohibition for illegal drugs, this plan argues, has failed in its goal to 
reduce the availability of illegal substances and to prevent harm from 
their use."

It also argues that prohibition leaves governments unable to regulate the 
drug, ensures that it stays in the hands of organized crime, and makes it 
impossible to use the kinds of public-education strategies that have been 
so successful in reducing tobacco use and dangerous drinking.

The report's other recommendations include public education starting with 
young children and extending to seniors, whose problems with alcoholism and 
prescription-pill addiction are often ignored in discussions about drug abuse.

Campbell said he likes the recommendations in the report, which has been a 
couple of years in the making, because it is so comprehensive.

"It recognizes that this can't be done just by Vancouver, so it's bringing 
in all the other levels. And it's looking at all the drugs, including 
tobacco and alcohol."

The report is the latest offensive in Vancouver's attempt to tackle the 
city's drug problems, which have contributed to an epidemic of HIV and 
hepatitis infections unequalled in North America, the deterioration of the 
city's inner-city Downtown Eastside neighbourhood, and a property-crime 
rate among the highest in Canada.

It's part of the city's Four Pillars strategy, which emphasizes an approach 
that is an equal mix of law enforcement, prevention, treatment and harm 
reduction for drug users. That policy was adopted four years ago, amid some 
controversy because of the harm-reduction aspects, which included a 
recommendation to create a health facility where users could go to inject 
drugs under the supervision of health-care workers.

Campbell was elected as mayor in 2002, in part because he and his party 
said they would work to aggressively implement the policy. The supervised 
injection site was opened in the fall of 2003.


Proportion of casino revenue that cities would earmark for drug-abuse 
prevention under a recommendation by the City of Vancouver report.

Other recommendations within the City of Vancouver's report on drug-abuse 
prevention strategy:

- - Create an agenda that would monitor the use of psychoactive substances in 
B.C., which would identify early trends in drug use and provide information 
to the public on the purity of illicit drugs.

- - Initiate a "safer bars" pilot program.

- - Advocate for stricter regulation of the chemicals needed to manufacture 
crystal meth and work with other agencies to address the potential threat 
of secret meth labs.
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