Marijuana found in a seized grow-op in the Lower Mainland.

Former B.C. A-Gs join push to legalize marijuana

BC Liberal Geoff Plant, three NDPers back campaign to decriminalize pot, cite gang violence

A coordinated push to legalize marijuana has gained the backing of four former B.C. attorneys-general, including B.C. Liberal Geoff Plant.

The four – who include former NDP A-Gs Colin Gabelmann, Ujjal Dosanjh and Graeme Bowbrick – signed a letter to Premier Christy Clark and Opposition leader Adrian Dix calling for the regulation and taxation of cannabis to combat organized crime.

They’re the latest high-profile additions to the Stop the Violence B.C. coalition campaign for pot decriminalization.

The letter comes in the wake of a surge in Lower Mainland gang violence in recent weeks, including multiple shootings in Vancouver and Surrey.

It warns continued marijuana prohibition is the cause of much of the gang violence and more aggressive enforcement is not the solution.

“The case demonstrating the failure and harms of marijuana prohibition is airtight,” their letter says, citing “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.”

The only solution, they said, is to “move away from an unregulated and increasingly violent illegal market, which is largely controlled by organized crime and whose only motive is profit, and towards a strictly regulated legal market whose motive is public health and safety.”

The former A-Gs also expressed dismay that B.C. is supporting the federal move to mandatory minimum sentences for minor pot offences, saying misguided prosecutions will further strain an already clogged system without reducing pot use or prohibition-related violence.

Plant, who served from 2001 to 2005, said in an interview he’s glad he was approached by Stop the Violence campaigners and hopes the coalition gathers more momentum.

“I have always had a problem with using criminal law to punish a behaviour that one does to yourself – including growing a plant in your backyard and smoking it,” he said.

Plant said he believes the fallout of pot prohibition has worsened since he was B.C.’s chief prosecutor.

“It’s causing more gang problems and more gang violence,” he said. “It’s increasingly permeating every aspect of the economy of the province.”

Plant said Canada must recognize the war on cannabis has failed and that “all criminalization does is feed the profits of gangsters” by making the drug trade more lucrative.

Change must ultimately come from Otawa, he said, adding provincial leaders focused on sustaining the flow of federal grants are unlikely to rock the boat.

“This is a one-step-at-a-time project,” Plant said. “I don’t think the federal-provincial policy is going to change tomorrow. But if we continue to gather strength, sooner or later, the federal government will listen.”

While federal Conservatives show no sign of softening on the issue, Plant said he thinks Prime Minister Stephen Harper could yet lead the country to marijuana policy reform.

He called Harper an “astute politician” who will ultimately follow where the people lead.

A recent Angus Reid poll found 77 per cent of B.C. residents said marijuana possession should not be a criminal offence.

Stop the Violence BC previously coordinated calls for pot reform from senior health officers and ex-Vancouver mayors.

The coalition has the backing of various academic, legal, law enforcement and health experts.

Questioned Tuesday by reporters, Premier Christy Clark said she will leave the debate on marijuana policy reform to the federal government.

Current Attorney General Shirley Bond maintained police efforts to combat gang violence are working.

Just Posted

The Disaster Before Christmas: Mission Hospice Society needs public’s help

Leaking pipes and a sewer back up leaves non-profit group with a huge bill it can’t afford to pay

Mission waterfront a priority for council

Mayor: ‘We still see our waterfront as a phenomenal opportunity for the entire community’

Silverdale planning is just beginning

Public meeting shows initial steps; next up will be examining infrastructure

Eight-foot-deep sinkhole appears in dike near Abbotsford/Mission wastewater plant

Crews hope to repair hole by February, but cost not yet known

Casino move, expansion approved by Mission council

Council votes 6-1 in favour of proposal, Chances still need final approval from the BCLC

REPLAY: B.C’s best video this week

In case you missed it, here’s a look at the replay-worth highlights from this week across the province

Microscopic parasite found in Prince Rupert water affecting thousands

More than 12,000 residents affected by the boil water advisory issued Dec. 14

Trudeau lashes out at Conservatives over migration “misinformation”

Warning against the “dangers of populism,” Trudeau says using immigration as a wedge political issue puts Canada’s future at risk.

B.C. hockey coach creates ‘gear library’ to remove cost barrier of sport

Todd Hickling gathered donations and used gear to remove the cost barrier for kids to play hockey.

VIDEO: Giants fall to Royals 4-2 in Victoria Saturday night

Second loss in as many days for G-Men, who are back home in Langley today to take on the Cougars.

Canada’s ambassador meets with second detainee in China

Global Affairs says John McCallum, Canada’s ambassador to China, met with Spavor Sunday

‘They’re coming:’ Flying cars may appear in urban skies by 2023

Air taxis will number 15,000 and become a global market worth $32 billion by 2035

B.C. VIEWS: Andrew Wilkinson on taxes, ICBC and union changes

Opposition leader sees unpredictable year ahead in 2019

5 tips for self-care, mental wellness this holiday season

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions urging British Columbians to prioritize self care through festive season

Most Read