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

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

Dancers from the Sts’ailes First Nation perform the eagle dance at a welcome banner dedication ceremony on Thursday, June 10. “Ey Swayel” is a Halq̓eméylem term translated as ‘a good day.’ (Adam Louis/Observer)
VIDEO: ‘A good day’ for Agassiz school as Sts’ailes welcome banner is dedicated

Banner hangs above the school’s entrance, welcoming students, staff and visitors

UFV athletes were honoured for their strength and perseverance during the pandemic. (UFV photo)
Fraser Valley athletes recognized in year without sports

UFV Cascades athletes honoured for strength shown during the pandemic

Missing Abbotsford man Adam Hobbs was found deceased on Thursday evening (June 17).
Body of missing Abbotsford man Adam Hobbs found

Hobbs was reported missing Monday after leaving his job site in Langley

A tenant walks in front of her home on Boundary Road on Friday, June 18, 2021 after it was destroyed by fire the night before in Chilliwack. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack family homeless after fire rips through house on Abbotsford border

Turtle rescued, no one seriously hurt following Boundary Road fire in Chilliwack

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

Most Read