I often get asked about what I mean when I say that our Sensible BC campaign wants to "decriminalize" cannabis in BC.
Some people tell me they don't like the idea of decriminalizing, and that we must legalize cannabis instead.
Other people say they don't want legalization, and will only support a decriminalized model.
Some people think that "decriminalization" means that people in possession of cannabis will still get a punishment, like a ticket or fine.
Others worry that "legalization" will mean that only tobacco companies will be able to grow and sell cannabis.
Our goal is to avoid both of those situations. We want to help create a legal, regulated cannabis industry in BC, one in which anyone can participate.
We seek reasonable regulations, but not a monopolized system for production and sale.
DECRIMINALIZE AS A FIRST STEP
The ultimate goal of the Sensible BC campaign is to create a legally regulated system for cannabis in BC, which we hope will spread across the rest of Canada.
However, BC cannot change the federal cannabis laws, so we cannot fully legalize as a province without action by the federal government.
In Canada, the provinces don't control criminal law, but they have jurisdiction over policing and the "administration of justice."
Our goal with the Sensible Policing Act is to implement a positive first step and decriminalize cannabis possession in BC. We do that by using the province's jurisdiction to stop all police in BC from detaining or arresting anyone for simple possession of cannabis.
This form of decriminalization doesn't involve any tickets or fines, it simply stops police from spending their time on possession of cannabis. Otherwise law-abiding citizens in possession of cannabis would simply be left alone.
This takes cannabis users off the front lines of the drug war, and allows police to redirect their resources towards more serious crimes.
We recognize that just stopping police from wasting resources on possession charges isn't going to solve all the problems of cannabis prohibition. However, it is a sensible first step.
To get us to a legally regulated system in BC, the Sensible Policing Act also demands that the federal government change the law and repeal cannabis prohibition, or else just give BC an exemption, so that we can go further and properly legalize and regulate cannabis in our province.
THE PATH TO LEGALIZATION
Although we can all agree that cannabis prohibition has failed, there is not full agreement on how exactly to legalize and regulate it. We still have to answer some important questions.
Should people be allowed to grow their own cannabis? If so, how much? Should cannabis be sold in stores? What kinds of taxes should there be? Should there be taxes on medical cannabis products? What about extracts and foods? What is the best age limit?
Before we can put a legalized system in place, we need to have the answers to these kinds of questions.
This is basically what they voted for in Washington and Colorado. In both states they have decriminalized possession immediately, making police stop bothering anyone for possession of cannabis. In Colorado, they have also legalized cultivation of up to six plants per person.
Now both state governments have until November to figure out the details needed to open some sort of government-regulated cannabis shops. That is why our Sensible Policing Act includes a section that makes the BC government figure out these kind of details.
If the Sensible Policing Act becomes law, there will be a provincial commission with public hearings, to recommend how we start off with legalization in BC. This commission would travel the province, taking advice from citizens, researchers and other relevant groups. They would then come up with the rules and laws needed to put legalization in place in BC.
THE WINE MODEL
I personally advocate for the "wine model" for legal cannabis.
Anyone can brew a limited amount of wine in their own home, tax-free, for their own use or to share with friends. Anyone can open a winery too, but there is regulation for safety and quality control. The province regulates wine sales, and is the primary buyer and seller of wine through liquor stores.
I don't think there should be any taxes on cannabis grown for your own use, or when used medicinally. Cannabis sold in a store or cafe should be taxed like other products. Cannabis foods and extracts should be labelled as to potency and effects.
However, these are just my personal ideas. The Sensible Policing Act doesn't specify how we will implement legalization in BC. The commission will figure out those details when the time comes, and the process will be one in which all British Columbians can participate.
I hope this clarifies our position and goals with the Sensible BC campaign. This is a unique opportunity for us to actually change the marijuana laws, right here in BC.
Together we can make this dream come true!
Thank you for your support.
I welcome your thoughts and feedback.
DANA LARSEN, Sensible BC Director