Why Your Vote May 12th is a Matter of Life and Death

The BC NDP & BC Liberals have the identical platform on crime. Here’s why it’s essential you vote BC Green.

The Tyee is an online magazine about BC politics with journalists and bloggers from the left to center. In this piece, Irwin Loy compares the BC NDP and BC Liberals platforms on gang crime. It’s all prohibition and enforcement, the same methodology for dealing with gang crime for the last 35 years with decidedly unsuccessful results.

From The Tyee:

In their 55-page 2009 platform booklet, the Liberals promise to crack down on gangs and guns. The party’s seven broad, key points:

* More police officers, including 168 officers hired with federal funds
* More prosecutors
* More jails and secure courts
* Tougher laws and sentences
* Crackdown on illegal guns
* Outlaw armoured vehicles and body armour
* New gang hotlines and rewards programs

The NDP’s 56-page 2009 platform, meanwhile, points out that the Liberals have overseen closures of B.C. jails and courthouses. But the NDP promises are nearly identical, right down to the number of officers it wants to hire:

* Hiring 168 new officers
* Creating an anti-gang prosecution team
* Cracking down on “the revolving bail door” for gang members
* Tougher laws and penalties for gang-related crime involving guns, body armour and armoured cars
* Studying the feasibility of regional policing in Metro Vancouver
* Sending out-of-province criminals back to their home provinces to face outstanding charges

The B.C. Marijuana Party was formed in 2001 because the B.C. NDP and B.C. Liberals both were enforcing the prohibition of marijuana and other substances with increased gusto. In 2001, both the Ujjal Dosanjh NDP government and Gordon Campbell’s Liberals wanted more police on the streets, longer sentences, more convictions, more raids, more “Grow Buster” teams, more anti-gang integrated units.

How did that work for British Columbia? What any scientist of prohibition would have predicted. The more marijuana growers and drug dealers the government and their police put in jail, the more the violence in the street increases as young people and others fight over the vacuum created by the arrest of the dealer or producer of illegal substances. Today, in 2009, we have dozens of crime gangs, crime gang violence, and murders like never before (since alcohol prohibition, anyway). The gangs run all the jails, and every young person sent to jail for any crime is pressured and given incentives in jail to join a gang. More gang members come out of jail than go in. Jails are the number-one recruiting centre for gangs; in fact, the Red Scorpions gang was formed in jails of the Lower Mainland. Over 140 Punjabi youth in the lower mainland have been killed since 1990 in the gang warfare that is intrinsic to the prohibition drug market, even though Punjabi culture represents no more than 4% of the population of the lower mainland. Drug prohibition is clearly luring young people into crime and to their deaths.

The BC NDP and BC Liberals say more police, longer sentences, more jails and more prohibition is the “answer”. Yet jailing more young people is possibly the worst thing we can do. More police is possibly the worst thing we can do.

To maintain a prisoner in a Canadian federal prison costs the Canadian taxpayer $75,000 a year. It cost tens of thousands to convict him. Yet it does nothing to prevent the crimes from continuing. If prohibition did not exist, drugs and marijuana would have no particular value above their cost of production. There would be no money in it. Young men are attracted to gangs and drug dealing precisely because there is a huge amount of money in it. A young man can be assured of flashy clothes, a great car with lavish rims, drugs, women, and ready cash once he adopts the gangster life. So can we change human nature that seeks material things or can we change the law so we no longer manufacture crime?

Since 2001, over a thousand more police have been hired in the Lower Mainland, but gang crime still carries on unabated. Marijuana and drugs are still dealt with in the black market, the taxpayer has spent billions on incarceration, police are everywhere in Vancouver but cannot prevent the crimes, and the B.C. NDP and B.C. Liberals are helpless in dealing with the gangs. What more police on the street do is harass motorists, petty drug users, and other easy to do jobs, because they have to something, it just won’t arresting the dangerous criminals. Mike Farnworth of the NDP has explicitly called for longer sentences, more police, more jails, and more enforcement of the drug laws—but those are precisely the reasons we are in a greater problem than ever before.

The more the drug laws are enforced, the more gang violence there is. The more young people sent to jail, the more gangs recruit more members and introduce them to violence, and then their membership in the gang continues when they are on the outside. The more we enforce the drug laws, the higher the price of drugs remain, and so invariably that is the leading recruitment incentive to join a gang. The more we enforce the drug laws, the more police budgets explode and take up more of the public’s treasury. The more we enforce the drug laws, the more police corruption there is. The more we enforce the drug war, the more we see an end to our civil rights and constitutional law. We get asset forfeiture of homes of pot growers, “safety” inspection teams snooping in every home based on electrical use, cops stopping any young person with a nice car or coloured skin.

In fact, enforcing the drug war brings us the worst of all worlds.

After running 79 candidates in 2001, and 45 candidates in 2005, the B.C. Marijuana Party is endorsing B.C.’s third party, the B.C. Green party, for this election. I have met B.C. Green party leader Jane Sterk and she is a wise and compassionate advocate for the party’s principles, calling for social justice, nonviolence, diversity and sustainability. On page 39 of the Green Book, the B.C. Green party platform, is a policy calling for the repeal of marijuana prohibition and regulating substance use. The B.C. Greens don’t just make it a policy, they actually advocate it and mean it. It has been a centerpiece of their election campaign currently underway. They have appointed my wife, Vancouver-Fraserview Green candidate Jodie Emery, the policing and prohibition critic of the party. Sterk is comfortable explaining the policy of repealing prohibition to the people of British Columbia, because it is a rational and fact-based policy and will actually resolve the problem of gang violence.

For this reason, as president of the B.C. Marijuana Party, I am extremely delighted and excited to declare that all of our support is behind seeing B.C. Green party leader Jane Sterk elected, and to call on all supporters of the BCMP in elections past to vote, volunteer, and donate to the B.C. Greens in the May 12 election.


Most of this blog appears in the Georgia Straight here

Marc Emery
Marc Emery

Marc Emery is a Canadian cannabis activist, entrepreneur, and politician. Known to his fans as the Prince of Pot, Emery has been a notable advocate of international cannabis policy reform for decades. Marc is the founding publisher of Cannabis Culture and Pot TV.