Canada: Legalize Marijuana, former B.C. Attorneys-General say

February 15th, 2012 – Four former B.C. attorneys-general — Colin Gabelmann, Ujjal Dosanjh, Graeme Bowbrick and Geoff Plant — are calling for the legalization of cannabis.

“No, I’m not smoking anything,” Dosanjh cracked when contacted.

“It’s just time – 77 per cent of Canadians are telling us it’s time to change the law.”

The former provincial justice ministers, who cross party lines, on Tuesday joined a growing chorus of academics, four Vancouver mayors, the Health Officers Council of B.C., the Liberal Party of Canada and others who say the 89-year-old marijuana prohibition has failed.

The ex-AGs say regulating and taxing pot will reduce gang crime and violence, raise government revenue, ease the burden on the overcrowded court system, better protect communities and improve health outcomes.

In a letter to Premier Christy Clark and NDP leader Adrian Dix, they cited mounting evidence reinforcing the harms of the current policy.

They said ending the pot prohibition was a “major opportunity for leadership from the provincial government.”

Clark, however, won’t go near the idea with a barge pole.

“I am going to leave the marijuana debate to the federal government,” she told reporters in Victoria.

“It’s in their sole sphere of responsibility so as a premier I respect that former attorneys-general have taken this stand, people who are outside of politics. But as a premier I’m going to leave this to the federal government.”

And in case people didn’t get the message of stiffer drug sentences in the controversial omnibus crime bill, the federal Tories say unequivocally this government won’t discuss legalization.

The four erstwhile AGs said they released their letter in the aftermath of escalating gang violence in the Lower Mainland and recent public shootings.

They wanted to add their weight to the campaign initiated by Stop the Violence B.C., a coalition of law-enforcement officers, legal experts, public health officials and academics from the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, University of Victoria and the University of Northern BC.

“The case demonstrating the failure and harms of marijuana prohibition is airtight,” write the attorneys general in their letter.

“Massive profits for organized crime, widespread gang violence, easy access to illegal cannabis for our youth, reduced community safety and significant-and escalating-costs to taxpayers.”

More than 50,000 or so Canadians are busted every year for possession; throw in 20,000 traffickers and producers, and the so-called war on drugs is costing us as much as $400 million annually in law enforcement, court and corrections.

The AGs’ letter urges provincial politicians to lead the change in marijuana policy and encourage Ottawa to abandon its plans for mandatory minimum sentences for minor and non-violent pot-related offences.

They argue a regulation and taxation strategy will better protect our communities while eroding the profits of organized crime.

“It’s time for our political leaders to accept and act on the overwhelming evidence linking marijuana prohibition to organized crime and gang violence,” said Geoff Plant, who served as Liberal attorney general from 2001 to 2005 in the first administration of Premier Gordon Campbell.

“Punitive laws such as mandatory minimum sentences are clearly not the solution. Instead, taxation and regulation under a public health framework is the best way forward.”

A recent Angus Reid poll commissioned by the coalition found that 77 per cent of BCers surveyed disagreed with the criminal prohibition and that 78 per cent were dissatisfied with the provincial political response to the massive illegal marijuana grow-op industry.

“British Columbians have lost faith in the ability of their elected representatives to enact cannabis laws that are in the public’s best interest,” said Dosanjh, B.C.’s NDP attorney general from 1995 to 2000 and premier from 2000 to 2001.

“Our politicians must take a leadership role in the development of new policies that will end gang violence and create safer communities.”

Last month the federal Liberal Party voted to legalize marijuana, echoing the Senate special committee on illegal drugs (chaired by a Conservative), which 10 years ago urged Ottawa to free the weed, a move first recommended four decades ago by the LeDain Commission.

“Alcohol prohibition did not work in the 1920s and 1930s and marijuana prohibition does not work today,” said Colin Gabelmann, NDP attorney general from 1991 to 1995.

“It’s past time we overturned prohibition and addressed the related problems of gang violence, clogged court systems and the constant drain on the public purse.” By Ian Mulgrew. Source.

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