Former B.C. Attorneys General Call for Legalization of Pot

Four former British Columbian attorneys-general have written to B.C. Premier Christy Clark and NDP opposition leader Adrian Dix to back legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana to help stop gang activity associated with the illegal marijuana trade.

The four, who served under both NDP and Liberal regimes, say the move would also boost tax revenue and ease court backlogs.

Colin Gabelmann, Ujjal Dosanjh, Graeme Bowbrick, and Geoff Plant wrote to the premier following gang violence in the Lower Mainland, including multiple public shootings in Vancouver and Surrey in recent weeks.

“The case demonstrating the failure and harms of marijuana prohibition is airtight,” the former attorneys-general wrote in a letter dated February 15 but released to the media on Tuesday. “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 AGs’ letter urges provincial politicians to lead the change in marijuana drug policy and encourage the federal government to abandon mandatory minimum sentences for minor and non-violent marijuana-related offences. The former AGs – who were responsible for B.C.’s criminal justice system and addressing gang crime and violence – want B.C. and Canada to pursue a regulation and taxation strategy to better protect community health and safety while at the same time undermining gang profits.

“It’s time for our political leaders to accept and act on the overwhelming evidence linking marijuana prohibition to organized crime and gang violence,” Geoff Plant, who served as attorney-general from 2001 to 2005, said in a statement released along with the letter. “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.”

Asked about the letter, Premier Christy Clark said Tuesday, “I’m going to leave the marijuana debate to the federal government. It’s in their sole sphere of responsibility so as a premier, I respect that former attorneys-general have taken a stand – people outside politics – but as a premier I’m going to leave this to the federal government.”

A recent Angus Reid poll found 77 per cent of British Columbians disagreed that marijuana possession should be a criminal offence and that 78 per cent are dissatisfied with the way politicians at the provincial level are responding to the problems stemming from the illegal marijuana industry in B.C.

“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 Ujjal Dosanjh, B.C.’s 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.”

Mr. Dosanjh, Mr. Gabelmann and Mr. Bowbrick served as NDP MLAs, while Mr. Plant served as a Liberal MLA.

Former Vancouver mayors Sam Sullivan, Michael Harcourt, Larry Campbell and Philip Owen have previously come out in favour of legalizing marijuana.

– Article from The Globe and Mail.


Former Attorneys General Endorse Stop the Violence BC

From: Colin Gabelmann, Ujjal Dosanjh, Graeme Bowbrick Q. C., Geoff Plant Q.C.
To: Hon. Christy Clark, Mr, Adrian Dix
Re: Cannabis taxation and regulation as a strategy to combat organized crime

February 15, 2012

Dear Ms. Clark and Mr. Dix:

Re: Cannabis taxation and regulation as a strategy to combat organized crime

As former BC Attorneys General, we are fully aware that British Columbia lost its war against the marijuana industry many years ago. The case demonstrating the failure and harms of marijuana prohibition is airtight. The evidence? 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.

As Attorneys General, we were the province’s chief prosecutors and were responsible for overseeing the justice system. In this role, we became well aware of the burden imposed on the province’s justice system and court processes by enforcement of marijuana prohibition. We are therefore dismayed that the BC government supports the federal government’s move to impose mandatory minimum sentences for minor cannabis offences. These misguided prosecutions will further strain an already clogged system, without reducing cannabis prohibition-related violence or rates of cannabis use.

The most obvious parallel to today’s marijuana prohibition is the bloodshed and gang warfare that emerged in the United States in the 1920s during alcohol prohibition, and then disappeared when prohibition was repealed in 1933. It is time BC politicians listened to the vast majority of BC voters who support replacing cannabis prohibition in favour of a strictly regulated legal market for adult marijuana use.

BC’s Health Officers Council and the Fraser Institute both support a tax and regulate regime, and a growing group of prominent British Columbians have joined to advocate for the taxation and regulation of marijuana through the Stop the Violence BC coalition. This coalition includes leading minds in public health, law enforcement and law, and we now include our names among their ranks.

While it is easier to take a leadership position on controversial issues once one is out of public office, the fact is that the public is way ahead of politicians on this issue. For instance, a recent Angus Reid poll demonstrated that 77% of British Columbians disagreed that marijuana possession should be a criminal offence and a similar majority were of the opinion that marijuana should be taxed and regulated. Perhaps not surprisingly, this same poll showed that 78% of British Columbians are dissatisfied with the way politicians at the provincial level are responding to the problems stemming from the illegal marijuana industry in BC. It is our opinion that the only solution to this problem 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.

We are cognizant of the fact that marijuana laws are federal, but there is still major opportunity for leadership from the provincial government on this matter. We encourage you to act and lead change on what is so obviously an untenable situation. Based on the evidence before us, we ask that you encourage the federal government to abandon mandatory minimum sentences for minor and non-violent marijuana-related offences and instead pursue a taxation and regulation strategy to better protect community health and safety while at the same time undermining gang profits.

We are also copying this letter to federal politicians in BC. We urge them to consider the evidence linking marijuana prohibition to organized crime and gang violence and to accept, as we and other experts do, that taxation and regulation under a public health framework is the only way forward. Cannabis prohibition is the cause of much of the gang violence in this province, and laws that more aggressively enforce prohibition are obviously not the solution.

Laws that have proven ineffective and which cause more harm than good should be repealed. Our current cannabis prohibition laws foster distrust and disrespect for government, police and the legal system. Thanks to the police intelligence efforts of organizations such as the RCMP, it is now commonly accepted knowledge that marijuana prohibition drives organized crime and related violence in BC. Given that, there is an urgency to consider alternatives to prohibition to help improve public health and safety, and prevent more innocent people from being caught in gang crossfire.

The evidence is incontrovertible that cannabis prohibition has been a failure. If you do not support taxation and regulation of marijuana as a strategy to better protect community health and safety, what is your plan to reduce gang violence related to the illegal marijuana trade, ensure the judicial system works efficiently and effectively in the face of escalating convictions, pay for increased prison costs while the BC government runs deficits, and prevent criminal enterprises from targeting BC’s youth for cannabis sales?

All British Columbians are interested in your response to these important questions. With a critical mass of citizens and public health and legal experts now calling for change, the time to use taxation and regulation as a strategy to undermine organized crime is now.

Signed,

Colin Gabelmann Attorney General of BC (1991–1995)
Ujjal Dosanjh P.C. Q.C. 33rd Premier of BC and Attorney General (1995 – 2000)
Graeme Bowbrick Q. C. Attorney General of BC (2000-2001)
Geoff Plant Q.C. Attorney General of BC (2001-2005)

cc: MPs, MLAs and city councils in British Columbia

– From Stop the Violence BC.



Former B.C. attorneys general call for legalization of marijuana

by Ian Mulgrew, Vancouver Sun

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.”

– Article from The Vancouver Sun.

Comments

3 Comments

  1. Anonymous on

    December 22nd, 2011 at 11:20 pm
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    The Federal Tort Claims Act or “FTCA”, (June 25, 1948, ch. 646, Title IV, 62 Stat. 982, “28 U.S.C. Pt.VI Ch.171? and 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b)), is a statute enacted by the United States Congress in 1948. “Federal Tort Claims Act” was also previously the official short title passed by the Seventy-ninth Congress on August 2, 1946 as Title IV of the Legislative Reorganization Act, 60 Stat. 842, which was classified principally to chapter 20 (§§ 921, 922, 931–934, 941–946) of former Title 28, Judicial Code and Judiciary.
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    Bill O’Reilly’s indignant posturing is typical of the contemporary medical marijuana skeptic: I have no problem with medical use, but any plan for supplying patients is a fraud and anyone who grows or sells marijuana is a scumbag.

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    Cannabis plant extracts can effectively fight drug-resistant bacteria.
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    Antibacterial Cannabinoids from Cannabis sativa
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  2. Guitarod on

    Unemployment statistics would rise considerably if cannabis prohibition were lifted.This would be a major embarrassment for gov’ts as thousands of law enforcement would find their services not required. This goes right down the line of this huge industry 100% overhead to taxpayers. Doesn’t a majority of opinion rule in a so called democratic country like Canada.
    I believe it’s time Canadians voices were heard by our rulers. A National Reeferendum to decide this issue would be a fair way to deal with it.
    Unfortunately democracy is not what it appears.

  3. Anonymous on

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