UBCM kicks off with debate on marijuana

A lawyer, doctor and police officer at the (UBCM) debate on marijuana policy Sept. 24 stated their opposition to marijuana prohibition

A lawyer, doctor and police officer at the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) debate on marijuana policy September 24 emphatically stated their opposition to marijuana prohibition, and noted its role in fueling gang violence, driving up law enforcement and related costs for municipalities, and harming community safety.

The comments, made during the UBCM’s Marijuana Decriminalization Debate at the Victoria Convention Centre, preceded a UBCM resolution vote to decriminalize cannabis and research the taxation and regulation of the drug.

“From a scientific and public health perspective we know that making marijuana illegal has not achieved its stated objectives of limiting marijuana supply or rates of use,” said Dr. Evan Wood, co-director of the Urban Health Research Initiative at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS and founder of Stop the Violence BC. “With the war on drugs fuelling ongoing gang warfare over massive profits from the illegal cannabis trade, elected officials must look toward alternatives such as the strict regulation and taxation of marijuana to decrease gang violence and protect the health and safety of British Columbians.”

Stop the Violence BC (STVBC) was formed in the wake of high-profile gang violence related to the illegal marijuana industry in the province. STVBC is a coalition of academic, legal, law enforcement and health experts campaigning to reform cannabis laws to reduce the harms associated with the illegal cannabis trade, including gang violence. Since launching less than a year ago, the campaign has received several high-profile endorsements, including eight current B.C. mayors, the Health Officers Council of B.C., four former mayors of Vancouver, and four former B.C. attorneys general, among them Geoff Plant.

“It’s time for our political leaders to accept and act on the overwhelming evidence linking marijuana prohibition to organized crime and gang violence,” said Mr. Plant, who served as attorney general from 2001 to 2005, during the debate. “Taxation and regulation under a public health framework is the best way forward.”

British Columbians agree. Polling conducted by STVBC and Angus Reid last fall found strong support for policy change, with only 12 per cent of British Columbians in favour of keeping existing marijuana laws unchanged. In addition, the polling showed that over 60 per cent of British Columbians said that there is a strong link between gang violence and organized crime’s control of the marijuana trade.

“Marijuana prohibition may be well-intentioned, but I personally believe it has failed in B.C. and around the world,” said David Bratzer, a police officer who resides in Victoria, B.C. “As a police officer, I’ve seen the results of the gang violence that has been fuelled by marijuana prohibition. A strictly regulated, legal market for adult marijuana consumption is clearly the best approach to fighting crime and protecting our communities.”

Tonight, Dr. Evan Wood and David Bratzer will be speaking as part of a panel event titled A sensible cannabis policy for B.C. The panel will include Nicholas Simons (MLA – Powell River-Sunshine Coast), John Ranns (Mayor of Metchosin), and Kirk Tousaw (barrister), and take place at Alix Goolden Hall (907 Pandora Ave.), Monday, September 24 from 7p.m. – 9 p.m.