A panel was held at SFU to discuss goals and issues with legalizing the drug
Marijuana legalization has been a headlining issue this past year, with Colorado and Washington being the first North American regions to legalize the drug. On Mar. 14, Sensible BC held a panel at SFU Burnaby to discuss legislative goals to decriminalize and possibly legalize marijuana in BC.
The event was hosted by Dana Larsen, a Canadian author, politician, and cannabis decriminalization activist.
Panel members included Burnaby mayor Derek Corrigan, former federal prosecutor and member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) Randie Long, a University of Victoria professor, and drug researcher Susan Boyd, a former city councilor Joy Davies, and a leading member of the Safer
Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER, an initiative which helped lead the legalize marijuana movement in Colorado), Mason Tvert.
Each panelist came forward to give their support for the Sensible BC initiative with personal stories to share about the criminalization of marijuana smokers and growers they’d seen or experienced themselves.
Mayor Corrigan promised to work with Larsen and Sensible BC to put an end to a “outdated and outmoded” view. Corrigan explained his difficulty with finding “kids” in jail during his time as a prison guard, asserting that people put away for possession were simply not the same as the hardened criminals he had experienced in the prisons.
These people required extra effort in their protection on the inside, and risked becoming seriously injured by the real criminals and gang members around them. “[The law is] criminalizing an issue which has a minimal impact on everyone else. It is a victimless crime, with no logical reason to be illegal.” “Prohibition leads to corruption,” argued Long. He condemned prohibition as a needless drug war with hundreds of thousands of casualties, and wondered who this law benefits other than drug lords who sell it illegally, and corrupt officials. Long explained why he believes marijuana decriminalization and regulation can only be a good thing: “If profit can be made, its already being done.”
When asked about gangs redirecting their revenue streams, Long replied, “the drug war won’t end until prohibition does.” According to Susan Boyd, a scholar who has dedicated her time for years into understanding the origins of the drug prohibition said
that marijuana has been around for over 5,000 years. Used as a patented medicine dating back to the 1800s, Marijuana became illegal in 1923 without public debate.
It is a law she claimed “emerged out of race, class, and gender fears; not actual evidence.” Additionally she stated that “plant based drugs and users” were demonized through media campaigns and biased films of the time.
“They are taking away our dignity,” urged Davies, a medical marijuana user. She spoke of the negative effects (including death) of pharmaceutical drug use. Davies fights for the right to herbal medicines and calls them “harmless,” stating that it “has not killed a soul.”
“Conversation and discussion is what’s important,” entreated Tvert. “We need to talk about how society treats alcohol versus marijuana . . . [because] alcohol kills, not weed.”
Sensible BC has two main goals. Their first goal is to amend the BC Police Act, to direct police and judicial efforts away from
marijuana possession, which Sensible BC identifies as “wasted police resources which could be better spent dealing with real crime.” This would not affect the current trafficking, possession for trafficking, or cultivation laws.
Their second goal is to work towards the legalizing marijuana, removing cannabis from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. If this cannot be achieved nationwide, then Sensible BC proposes a Section 56 exemption for BC, allowing the province to hold a provincial referendum to form their own specific rules and regulations on this regard.
Legalization talk has been a long disputed issue in BC. In Nov. when two US states legalized marijuana, Prime Minister Steven Harper said, “I won’t speculate about what it means south of the border, but the government of Canada has no intention of opening the issue here.” Premier Christy Clark has also stated that she does not support legalization and believes it to be a federal matter.