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B.C. municipal leaders vote to decriminalize marijuana

Sep 27 2012
A demonstrator smokes a marijuana cigarette during 4-20 in Vancouver, B.C. Friday, April, 20, 2012. Local municipalities voted to decriminalize marijuana Wednesday. 

A demonstrator smokes a marijuana cigarette during 4-20 in Vancouver, B.C. Friday, April, 20, 2012. Local municipalities voted to decriminalize marijuana Wednesday.

Photograph by: JONATHAN HAYWARD , THE CANADIAN PRESS

In what marijuana activist Dana Larsen called an important step, municipal leaders from across B.C. called for the decriminalization of marijuana on Wednesday.

Opinions on the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention floor were clearly divided but after about 30 minutes of debate a clear majority of municipal mayors, councillors and regional leaders voted in favour of a resolution calling on appropriate authorities to decriminalize and research regulation and taxation of pot.

“I’m absolutely thrilled. I think it’s very important,” said Larsen, adding that it sets the stage for the Sensible B.C. petition campaign to decriminalize possession and use of cannabis by adults in B.C.

Larsen conceded the vote by delegates attending the convention is largely symbolic.

“But it shows that although these are federal laws, it’s the provinces and the cities — municipalities — that really pay the brunt, pay the cost and really have to deal with the effect of these laws.

“So it’s very appropriate for municipalities and cities in British Columbia to say they’ve had enough. We want to see something different. We want to decriminalize marijuana.”

Metchosin Coun. Moralea Milne, who drafted the resolution, told delegates she wasn’t advocating that people smoke marijuana.

“I think a walk in the woods is a way better way to clear you head, and personally I’d rather have a martini and I’m allowed to because we changed that very wrong prohibition stance that we had,” Milne said.

She described prohibition of alcohol as a failed policy.

“When they had alcohol prohibition, the crime rate went up. The murder rate went up. But when it was taken down, it all went down,” she told delegates.

Some delegates argued the potential tax revenues are too good to pass up on a  product 585,000 British Columbians admit to using.

But former Conservative MP and current regional director for Okanagan Similkameen Tom Siddon said the issue is not about taxation and that decriminalization could exacerbate the drug problem in the country.

“I think we’ve been frying too many brains,” Siddon said. “You can say all you like about alcohol and the prohibition movement of the ’30s, but our chief inspector in our regional district  told us, frankly, you can do all you like about decriminalization, you will only make the drug trade and the gangs and the import problem of cocaine worse.”

Siddon later told reporters that decriminalizing marijuana was “over-simplistic and naive” and that  penalties for cultivation and sale of drugs should be stiffened.

“Penalties do not discourage the production of cannabis and B.C. Bud. It was clearly indicated in the debate here that there’s nothing in this measure which is going to further reduce the growing by decriminalizing simple possession,” he said.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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