Posted on 03 October 2012 by Keith Lacey
Mayor Stu Wells and every member of Town of Osoyoos council were unanimous in their support of a resolution presented at last week’s Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) asking the federal government to decriminalize longstanding legislation for possession of marijuana.
The province’s municipal politicians voted in favour of a resolution supporting marijuana decriminalization during a vocal debate last Wednesday at the UCBM annual conference in Victoria. UBCM delegates heard health policy advocates, police officers and former B.C. attorney general Geoff Plant call on municipal politicians to lead efforts that could change what they call Canada’s outdated pot laws.
The mayors and councillors from across the province voted to lobby the federal government in Ottawa to decriminalize marijuana and study the benefits of taxing and regulating the sale of cannabis.
Near the end of town council’s meeting on Monday, Coun. Michael Ryan said after listening to the heated debate during the UBCM, which featured presentations by lawyers, police officers and physicians, he’s convinced the time has come to decriminalize marijuana.
Ryan made it very clear the majority of municipal politicians were not in favour of legalizing marijuana, but simply supporting a resolution made supporting the decriminalizing of possession of pot.
An experienced police officer from Washington State spoke at the conference about how a large percentage of the prison population in that state is behind bars on possession of marijuana charges and he’s convinced that’s the case in B.C. as well, said Ryan.
“The resolution was about telling the senior levels of government that we need to look at things in a different way,” said Ryan. “Let’s examine things in a different way.”
Coun. C.J. Rhodes said he had almost two dozen emails from constituents wanting to know his views about this issue.
It’s very clear the majority of Canadians are in favour of decriminalizing marijuana possession and the presentations at the UBCM made it equally clear healthcare and law enforcement officials are now supporting this stance as well, said Rhodes.
The fact a 15-year-old teenager can get caught by police smoking a joint, be charged and have this negatively affect his life for years and perhaps decades is wrong and the laws of this country should recognize this, said Rhodes.
A high-ranking officer with the RCMP spoke at the conference and said there hasn’t been a single arrest for simple marijuana possession anywhere in this province that he knows of for the past seven years, said Rhodes.
Wells said he was attending another session when the vote was taken on the marijuana issue, but he, like other members of council, supports the resolution.
Coun. Mike Plante said it’s time for the government to regulate, tax and control the sale of marijuana, rather than allowing organized crime to control it as has been the case for the past several decades.
“I think the consensus is we need to take another look at this because what we’re doing now simply isn’t working,” said Plante. “It has become a $7 billion industry in this country and we produce three times more in this province than the amount that is consumed by users, so something is seriously wrong.”
Having the government regulate, control and tax the distribution and sale of marijuana would eliminate a lot of the current criminal elements that have existed for decades, he said.
Former Brian Mulroney-era cabinet minister Tom Siddon, who represents constituents in Okanagan Falls on the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, urged the UBCM to turn down the resolution.
Siddon attempted to have the resolution appealed and to have a recorded electronic vote established the following day, but his request was denied.
Siddon said organized criminals would not be deterred by decriminalization of pot and will resort to violence to protect their commodity.
“It’s going to aggravate the temptations of young people to move from marijuana, which may be more harmless than a few bottles of beer, to being hooked on heroin, cocaine and the chemical designer drugs,” he said.
Municipal politicians can no longer ignore the huge policing costs associated with marijuana and and many of them realize how much revenue could be generated by having the federal government take over control of the industry, said Wells.