Vancouver Liberals Play Host to Panel on Marijuana Legalization

CANNABIS CULTURE – The Federal Liberal Riding Association of Vancouver East hosted an event on marijuana legalization last weekend featuring speakers critical of Canada’s Drug War and new Conservative laws regarding cannabis.

Hosted by Vancouver East Riding Association president Mark Elyas, the speakers panel included Liberal MP candidate for Vancouver East Roma Ahi, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition Canada‘s Steve Finlay, Canadian Drug Policy Coalition director Donald MacPherson, and Cannabis Culture publisher Jodie Emery.

The panel, held at the Hasting Community Centre on March 31, comes just weeks after the Federal Liberal party overwhelmingly endorsed a resolution calling for the legalization and regulation of marijuana, and just days after comments were made by Liberal Leader Bob Rae slamming new conservative drug laws.

View a photo gallery or watch videos of the event below. Photos by Jeremiah Vandermeer.

Roma Ahi

Liberal MP candidate for Vancouver East Roma Ahi discussed a new study and calls from senior Canadian provincial health officers to end the drug war.

“Marijuana itself is not necessarily free from it’s harm,” she said, “but reviews do suggest that it is less harmful than tobacco and alcohol, as well as a lot of pharmaceutical drugs that are currently out there being prescribed. We’re all sort of aware of the continuous widespread availability of cannabis as well as the crime and violence that exists from the prohibition of this drug. There is a need for a strong discussion about what will be the best practice or … ‘an optimal regulatory strategy so that we can reduce harms of cannabis use while also reducing unintended policy-attributable consequences’.”

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Steve Finlay

Steve Finlay of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition Canada spoke about the dangers and futility of prohibition from a policing perspective.

“LEAP’s position is not that marijuana should be legalized because it is safer than alcohol or because it has medicinal benefits,” he said. “Even though those things are true, that’s not LEAP’s position. LEAP’s position is that marijuana should be legalized because prohibition is a terrible policy.”

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Donald MacPherson

Donald MacPherson, former Vancouver drug policy coordinator and current director of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, discussed his group’s mission and latest studies, and pointed to the successes of other countries that have implemented progressive drug strategies.

“We need to move beyond this blanket prohibition of drugs,” he said, “and move towards a public-health approach to respond to people who have problems with drugs. … [Other] countries are moving away of criminalization of people who use drugs.”

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Jodie Emery

Princess of Pot Jodie Emery, CEO of CCHQ and former Green Party candidate, talked about the expanding prison industry and the Conservative government’s push for privatized prisons in Canada.

“The government says that their goal is to go after the gangs and make the streets and communities safe – they are not going to do that with these policies,” she said. “In fact these policies they’re pushing are proven to do the opposite. And again, what is the goal then? If they’re spending so much money, repeatedly, despite all the evidence showing it’s a waste, then why does it continue? … There is big money involved in marijuana prohibition. There is really big money, and not just in the pockets of the gangsters and not even just in law enforcement.”

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Jeremiah Vandermeer is editor of Cannabis Culture. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.