It's a topic that some want to sweep under the rug and forget, but the time for a broader discussion on decriminalizing marijuana is now.
Last Friday, Dana Larsen, the former federal and provincial NDP candidate, brought his Sensible BC tour to the Sunshine Coast. Larsen has been travelling throughout the province since October in an effort to gain support for a referendum that would change the Policing Act.
Larsen admits it's a daunting task, but one he is willing to fight for. B.C. is the lone province in Canada with a referendum system, according to Larsen, and the last time a referendum question was asked was regarding the harmonized sales tax. We all know how that ended up.
Larsen, through the Sensible BC campaign, is calling on the provincial government to adopt a new Policing Act that would essentially direct police to not arrest and charge people for simple possession of marijuana.
It's an idea that is already gaining support and traction with several former and current provincial politicians.
Last November, former attorney general Geoff Plant spoke out in favour of decriminalizing the use of marijuana. At the time, Plant cited an Angus Reid report that revealed 75 per cent of B.C. residents felt the government should legalize marijuana and then tax it.
In the November United States election, voters in Colorado and Washington state voted in favour of legalizing marijuana. The vote in Washington state will most certainly have an impact on this province with our close proximity to the border. What those implications will be are yet to be determined.
Vancouver - Fraserview MLA Kash Heed has also come out in favour of changing the laws because he said the war on marijuana just isn't working.
It's time for lawmakers to open their minds to new approaches, he said.
Even Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu has said that marijuana is not a priority for Canadian police chiefs.
Larsen pointed out when he was here last week that more than 3,500 people in B.C. were charged with simple possession last year - almost double the rate of any other province - at an estimated cost of $15 to $20 million. Think about where that money could be spent elsewhere. More money for education, health care, more affordable housing - the list is endless. And if police chiefs like Chu are saying marijuana is not a priority, then why are we spending the money to fight it?
Larsen points out that governments don't change pot laws - people do - in referendums. It's time for the people to speak up and for B.C. residents to decide whether this is a good or bad idea.
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