B.C. VIEWS: Marijuana referendum misguided

"Sensible BC" wants to tie police hands, while doing nothing about sales to minors and leaving the money in the hands of criminal gangs

Sensible BC organizer Dana Larsen claims his petition is a step to marijuana legalization

VICTORIA – I won’t be signing the “Sensible B.C.” petition to demand a provincewide referendum on marijuana enforcement. You shouldn’t either, and here are a few reasons why.

Let me start by saying I’ve been calling for legalization and regulation of pot for 20 years, to conserve police resources and reduce violent crime. Our war on drugs is a failure even for heroin and cocaine, and marijuana is obviously much easier to produce.

But the current effort led by Dana Larsen, B.C.’s clown prince of pot, is not only misguided, it’s dangerous.

The petition does not propose legalization. It seeks to impose a provincial law that would stop B.C. police from using any resources for simple possession charges. This would create a loophole in the federal drug law.

So what would that do? It would protect otherwise innocent customers of the current illegal marijuana trade, while leaving the criminal distribution business in place.

For a closer look at that, I recommend reports from the Surrey Six murder trial now underway, or the upcoming case against three accused assassins of Red Scorpion gangster Jonathan Bacon in Kelowna.

Larsen’s loony law would tie police hands when they are trying to hold someone on a lesser charge while they search for evidence of something nastier. This is a source of many simple possession charges today.

Police chiefs have a different idea, asking for the option of treating simple possession as a ticket offence to keep the court time to a minimum.

Both of these notions have the same obvious flaws. They don’t deal with sales to minors and they divert no revenue to government, leaving most of that in the hands of criminal dealers who buy cocaine, guns and fancy cars.

Colorado and Washington have gone the legalization route, so far without interference from their federal government. These states need money, and they don’t need more crime or ill-considered hippy gesture politics.

Meanwhile in Ottawa, Health Canada is trying to convert a poorly regulated mess of small-scale medical marijuana licences to a free-market system of commercial producers.

Local politicians tore a strip off Health Canada officials at their recent convention, after years of warnings that federal licences were scattered at unknown locations, often used as fronts for larger grow-ops.

Mission Coun. Dave Hensman predicted that when a grower gets a letter cancelling his licence, he’s more likely to roll up a big joint with it than to shut down. Burnaby Coun. Nick Volkow suggested the response would echo an old Cheech and Chong routine: “Dave’s not here, man.”

Here’s another reason not to support Larsen: the conduct of his organizers.

One fellow set up a petition table at, of all places, the Terry Fox Hometown Run in Port Coquitlam. After scrawling “pot cures cancer” on the table, he proceeded to interrupt speeches by cancer survivors and the run itself by yelling the same false slogan.

You can imagine how people with terminal cancer and their loved ones would react. Some would know that marijuana may alleviate side effects of chemotherapy, just as it can ease suffering for some multiple sclerosis patients. But the suggestion of a cure is as cruel as it is moronic.

Larsen’s “cannibus” has been rolling around B.C., reaping uncritical media coverage. It even blundered into the recent Walk for Reconciliation in Vancouver, an event to mark the end of federal hearings into the effects of residential schools on aboriginal children.

I wouldn’t support the Larsen bunch for anything, unless it involved them looking for jobs. Just say no.

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press and BCLocalNews.com


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