Eight B.C. mayors have joined a coordinated campaign to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana to combat gang violence and other drug-related crime, but Mission’s top municipal politician disagrees with his colleagues.
Three of the mayors are from the Lower Mainland — Vancouver’s Gregor Robertson, Burnaby’s Derek Corrigan and North Vancouver City’s Darrell Mussatto — while the other cities represented are Vernon, Armstrong, Enderby, Lake Country and the District of Metchosin.
“It is time to tax and strictly regulate marijuana under a public health framework,” the mayors said in a letter distributed by the Stop The Violence BC campaign addressed to Premier Christy Clark, NDP leader Adrian Dix and BC Conservative leader John Cummins.
It notes pot is more readily available to youth than tobacco, while smoking rates have been cut through public health regulation, not prohibition.
“Regulating marijuana would allow the government to rationally address the health concerns of marijuana, raise government tax revenue and eliminate the huge profits from the marijuana industry that flow directly to organized crime.”
But Mission Mayor Ted Adlem isn’t buying that argument, saying Robertson and Corrigan are playing a political game, hoping that legalization will solve the crime problem.
“I understand there are a ton of people that use it but if you support legalization of marijuana based on the fact that you’re trying to eliminate the crime involved, you’re barking up the wrong tree,” he said, adding that will only lead to arguments that every illicit drug should be legalized.
Adlem said the bigger problem in Mission is the large number of legal medical marijuana grow-ops operating without a business licence, calling the largely unregulated practice “a scary situation.”
Adlem would like to see the grow-ops licensed as a business, pay taxes, and be subjected to the same two fire inspections each year as any other business.
The eight mayors expressed concern that their cities will face higher policing costs due to “inflexible” federal policies like mandatory minimum sentences for drug offences.
Several city councils have also passed supportive motions.
But Adlem said the balance of B.C. mayors evidently do not support legalization since only eight signatures appear on the letter.
The Stop the Violence BC coalition has previously released endorsements from various academic, legal, law enforcement and health experts. B.C.’s chief medical health officer Dr. Perry Kendall was one of the latest to endorse a health-based approach to marijuana policy. In February, four former B.C. attorneys-general also backed pot legalization.
Premier Clark has deferred the issue of marijuana policy reform to the federal government.
— with files from Jeff Nagel