Marijuana laws go to provincial petition

An initiative petition proposing changes to marijuana policing allowed

Elections BC has approved an initiative petition that proposes eliminating RCMP enforcement of laws relating to marijuana use and possession.

A draft bill, the Sensible Policing Act, proposes to amend the Police Act to no longer use provincial police resources on the enforcement of current laws in relation to simple possession and use of cannabis by adults.

It would prohibit the use of provincial police for this purpose, and require police to report to the Minister of Justice in detail for any actual use of its resources.

The bill also proposes the province call upon the federal government to repeal the federal prohibition on cannabis, or exempt British Columbia to enable it to tax and regulate it similar to alcohol and tobacco.

Elections BC deemed the initiative petition as legally valid, so if sufficient names are gathered, it will be followed by a referendum.

However, Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod says criminal justice is “very clearly” under federal jurisdiction in the Constitution.

“Certainly our government has no intention of legalizing marijuana.”

McLeod adds she has noted “significant research” in the past few months showing a “direct impact” of marijuana use on intelligence, memory and attention span, and “significant associations” with psychiatric illnesses.

“A number of studies have come out recently that reaffirm some concerns I’ve had in terms of this is not a harmless substance.”

She explains rather than resulting in decreasing violence and RCMP enforcement time, as some suggest, there would instead be significant issues with border and driver enforcement.

RCMP federal spokesperson Sgt. Duncan Pound says police will continue to enforce federal laws according to legislation.

“RCMP’s role is to enforce the laws of Canada, so if and when they change, then our enforcement strategies will change. Canadians have the expectation that we will enforce the laws, and that’s our plan.”

The bill also proposes that B.C. establish a commission to study aspects to establish a legal and regulated model for the production and use of cannabis by adults.

It would additionally make non-lawful possession and use of cannabis by minors an offence similar to possession and use of alcohol.

The first item of debate at the Union of BC Municipalities conference this week was a resolution to call upon the province to decriminalize marijuana use, and research the regulation and taxation of the substance.

Stop the Violence BC (STVBC) founder Dr. Evan Wood spoke at the conference, along with two other professionals.

“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.”

Polling conducted by STVBC and Angus Reid last fall found strong support for policy change, finding just 12 per cent of British Columbians in favour of keeping existing marijuana laws unchanged.

The initiative petition can be reviewed online at www.elections.bc.ca.