By Phillip Smith
Municipal leaders across British Columbia last week endorsed a resolution calling for the decriminalization of marijuana. The move came at the meeting of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities, which has represented the interests of BC local governments for more than a century.
"Whereas marijuana prohibition is a failed policy which has cost millions of dollars in police, court, jail and social costs; and whereas the decriminalization and regulation of marijuana would provide tax revenues," the resolution read, "therefore be it resolved that UBCM call on the appropriate government to decriminalize marijuana and research the regulation and taxation of marijuana."
The "appropriate government," of course, would be the federal government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, which has made it clear it is not interested in decriminalization and, earlier this year, toughened criminal penalties for some marijuana cultivation offenses. But former BC Attorney General Geoff Plant was among those urging delegates to send a message to Ottawa.
The municipalities should support the resolution to join a "growing chorus of voices" across the country to show Harper that "people are calling for change," he said in remarks reported by the Vancouver Sun.
"This shows that although this is a federal law, it's municipalities that bear the brunt of paying for those laws," marijuana activist Dana Larsen said after the vote. "When we're talking about decriminalization, you want to take the major users off the front lines in the war on drugs."
Larsen is leading his own effort to decriminalize in BC. He is laying the groundwork for doing a decriminalization initiative signature drive a year from now.
Dr. Evan Wood, professor of medicine at the University of BC, said the vote was "a symbolic gesture" toward ending a black market that sees $2.7 billion annually goes organized crime.
"It will have a profound impact on BC," he said. "We have been living with the violent, unintended consequences of marijuana [prohibition]. It's certainly not too late. It's absurd we've been flushing time and money down the toilet... this decision is long overdue."
Nearly two-thirds (65%) of voters across Canada support marijuana decriminalization, according to a July Reid Ipsos poll. In BC, that figures rises to 69%.