CANNABIS CULTURE – Tomorrow is municipal Election Day in Vancouver and we at Cannabis Culture have been burning through news stories and videos to assess who would be most friendly to the marijuana community.
After a consideration of incumbent Gregor Robertson’s current policies on pot and a review of the comments of the major candidates, we’ve decided to endorse Robertson for another term.
Vancouver’s marijuana landscape has seen some dramatic alterations – most of them positive – since Robertson was elected in 2008.
At current count, there are over 50 medical marijuana dispensaries operating store-front locations in the city, and a vast majority were opened during Robertson’s term. These dispensaries are technically illegal according to federal government policy but allowed to operate without business licences by City Hall and police, as long as they follow a few basic rules. A few have been raided.
Vancouver 4/20 and Cannabis Day celebrations have grown to an unprecedented size and scope during Robertson’s time as mayor. The protests now include live music and speakers on multiple stages and hundreds of vendors openly selling marijuana flowers, extracts and edibles to anyone – not just medical patients – while the police look on with smiles and help divert traffic. Activists meet with members of the City Staff before events to co-ordinate safety and other issues.
“Robertson and Vision have been most consistent in their support for legalization, they’ve followed a prudent course on cannabis dispensaries, and they have sensibly made possession a low priority for the VPD,” a release from the Sensible BC marijuana legalization campaign says. “We’d like to see Vancouver continue on it’s current path.”
Candidates’ Comments on Marijuana
The three major candidates – Gregor Robertson, Kirk LaPointe and Meena Wong – have all made comments in recent days related to marijuana dispensaries and the enforcement of drug policy in Vancouver.
The conservative NPA party’s Kirk LaPointe seemed to be supportive of marijuana dispensaries in a Georgia Straight article titled “NPA mayoral hopeful Kirk LaPointe outlines plans for marijuana dispensaries”, but a quote in the article left us wondering if is LaPointe’s plan is to use regulations to crack down on dispensaries:
LaPointe told the Straight that, if elected, the NPA would introduce a class of business licence specifically for dispensaries. He argued that under Vision Vancouver, an entire industry has grown outside of any real regulatory framework.
“That’s where the neighbourhoods are concerned,” LaPointe added. “They don’t understand how they’ve all popped up, why they’re there, what they’re doing, and what the city should be doing about them.”
In a recent CBC all candidates’ debate, LaPointe made revealing comments about his position on marijuana:
The science is clear, right, that brains under above the age of 22 really experience serious disruption with marijuana as they do with alcohol. So the city I think has not been conscientious in determining, first of all, how to accord business licenses to the legitimate medical marijuana dispensaries – and they do exist – and I agree with Meena that there are people in great pain and suffering that require it and that’s what the city has to look at. What it should not be doing is giving an opportunity for a front for big grow-ops, for organized crime, to just run recklessly through the community and sell, not just basic marijuana, but products of it like cookies that are laced with other chemicals. This has been an irresponsible oversight on the part of the city and it will change after the election.
Disruptions? Organized crime? Cookies laced with other chemicals? If LaPointe has any evidence of these things, we would love to see it.
LaPointe said telling things in another Straight article titled “Eyebrows raised by Kirk LaPointe’s vow to sweep away Downtown Eastside drug dealers”:
“It’s distressing to see this kind of open drug sale within a few feet of a community centre where a lot of families go,” he said in reference to the Carnegie Community Centre. “After the election, we need to have direction there.”
LaPointe added that he doesn’t intend to target every drug user. “We don’t wish to crack down on those who are vulnerable,” he said. “But we do wish to deal with those who are exploiting the situation.”
Left-wing COPE party candiate Meena Wong didn’t sound much better than LaPointe when asked about marijuana in the all candidates’ debate:
I work in mental health and with Vancouver coastal health. When I was at UBC mental health hospital I encountered young people, adolescents older and young adults and then many of them experienced psychosis. I also studied that reports came out that young people, before their brain becomes fully developed, if they smoke, that can cause psychosis. The rate goes up. So I do see there’s a need.
But on the other hand, my friend’s died from cancer, and marijuana oil helped her to relieve pain. So there is a need for medicinal marijuana, definitely. But for young people, young kids and young adults, before their brain developed there needs to [inaudible]control.
Marijuana causing psychosis? Wong may be a health care professional, but she hasn’t been been doing her homework.
Incumbent Vision party candidate Gregor Robertson defended his position on marijuana during the debate:
Well it is a challenge for the city to grapple with given the gray area that we’re in, in terms of the federal government’s position and drug laws. Ultimately the Government of Canada is the authority on this and they have vacated the field largely. Medicinal marijuana, I think many people now agree, certainly the academic research suggests, that it is needed and a necessary treatment that people seek. We know that is protected. I know the VPD do focus on the organized crime element of this and making sure that these dispensaries are not organized crime operations. They have shut some of them down when that’s been clear and focused on violent crime, focused on more severe crimes in Vancouver, where we’ve seen a 20% drop in crime across the city in the past 5 years.
Robertson has made calls for marijuana legalization in the past, said he won’t bother dispensaries if they are just selling to patients, and has arguably been Vancouver’s most pot-friendly mayor, stating in a 2011 interview,
I do support taxing and regulating as a more effective strategy to take the windfall from cannabis away from gangs and put it to use for public services. This is a federal jurisdiction and the Canadian, U.S. and Mexican governments are all grappling with more effective drug policy than the war on drugs, which clearly is not working. Vancouver has had a fairly tolerant approach to cannabis historically, and that continues.
Watch video of the CBC Vancouver mayoral candidates’ debate:
Sensible BC analyzed the data on other pot-friendly mayoral candidates in British Columbia and compiled this list.
Don’t forget to vote!