No, pot’s not legal yet.
With a raise of hands, B.C. local politicians passed a motion to ask the federal government to decriminalize marijuana.
The motion passed at the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities convention, Sept. 26. Marijuana laws are held at the federal level.
“It was about 70 per cent of hands in favour, it wasn’t close. If it was close it would go to electric voting,” said Metchosin Coun. Moralea Milne. “I would hope UBCM takes it to another level. We don’t really have any jurisdiction.”
At last year’s UBCM convention Milne spoke up on her support of decriminalization and after overwhelming support, she brought the motion to Metchosin council and to the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities.
“The war on drugs hasn’t been a success,” Milne said. “A lot of things we enjoy cause harm … We don’t throw people in jail for eating potato chips.”
If marijuana was decriminalized Milne said the drug could be regulated similar to alcohol.
“Marijuana does lead children to come in contact with a criminal element, they have to buy it from them,” Milne said. “There will still be organized crime, but this is the first way to deal with it instead of sticking our heads in the sand.”
Milne, 62, said she hasn’t smoked marijuana in 40 years and if it’s decriminalized she wouldn’t start smoking again.
“What I really enjoy is a walk in the woods or a martini. I can have a martini because it is legal,” Milne said. “When alcohol was illegal the crime rate jumped, when it became legal it dropped. You don’t see Labatt and Molson having a turf war over market share.”
After the motion was read and Milne spoke on the subject the floor was opened to the politicians to speak both for and against the issue before voting.
Okanagan-Similkameen area director Tom Siddon, a former federal cabinet minister, said his local police reject decriminalization.
“I think we’ve been frying too many brains,” Siddon said. “It’s going to aggravate the temptation of young people to move from marijuana, which may well be more harmless than a few bottles of beer, to being hooked on heroin, cocaine and the chemical designer drugs.”
Prince George city councillor Brian Skakun drew laughter with his comment: “I tried it when I was younger, I turned out OK.” Turning serious, he said the costs extend to police and courts weighed down with marijuana cases rather than “real criminals.”
Abbotsford councillor Henry Braun agreed with Siddon.
“We produce about 1.5 million pounds of marijuana in British Columbia,” Braun said. “We consume about 185,000 pounds, so the vast majority of marijuana is being exported to the U.S. and other places.”
Port Moody councillor Bob Elliott said his “quaint, safe city” has seen three gang-related murders in the past six months. He pleaded for support for decriminalization.
Coquitlam councillor Terry O’Neill called decriminalization “the worst of all worlds,” protecting people from simple possession charges while leaving large-scale growing and sales in the hands of criminals.
Nelson councillor Robin Cherbo said sparing young recreational users from prosecution is worth it, and even outright legalization won’t stop the criminal trade as long as pot remains illegal in the U.S.
Cariboo Regional District director Joan Sorley reminded delegates that grow ops are destructive to communities and dangerous to police and fire departments.
“They’re huge operations,” Sorley said. “If we decriminalize it, we take away the tool that the RCMP has to try and shut them down and help keep our neighbourhood safe.”
“I am delighted so many people have come around and are far-sighted and smart enough to know that this doesn’t work,” Milne said. “When you have a practice, a law, that is so widly abused and there is no compliance, you know it’s a bad law. This is a ground swell movement.”