At the 2012 UBCM convention, several resolutions were presented regarding the decriminalization, as well as the taxation and regulation, of marijuana.
Decriminalization is different than legalization in that it isn’t making marijuana legal nor will it be regulated by government.
Decriminalization simply reduces control and penalties compared to existing laws.
Full legalization would see marijuana regulated by the government, taxed and distributed with age restrictions enforced, similar to tobacco and alcohol.
The resolutions at UBCM stated decriminalization of marijuana would free up judicial time and resources for more serious crimes.
Resolution C4, from North Vancouver City, stated “cannabis prohibition efforts have failed to effectively limit the availability of cannabis, especially in our youth,” and “academic, law enforcement and health experts, including the Health Officers Council of BC believe that a strictly controlled public health-oriented regulatory framework for cannabis control has the potential to reduce rates of cannabis use, raise substantial tax revenue, undermine organized crime and save law enforcement times and expenditures.”
UBCM also brought forth a resolution from Metchosin, resolution A5, Decriminalization of Marijuana, which states “marijuana prohibition is a failed policy which has cost millions of dollars in police, court, jail and social costs,” and “the decriminalization and regulation of marijuana would provide tax revenues.”
The resolutions committee commented that based on police information, the marijuana industry in the province is run by gangs who exchange or sell marijuana produced in B.C. to criminal gangs in the U.S. for drugs or guns.
Quesnel city councillor, Mike Cave thinks these resolutions are a step in the right direction, however would like to see more done.
“Decriminalization is a good first step but, personally, I would rather see full legalization and regulation,” he said.
“Decriminalization, while freeing up police resources, does not take the money out of the criminal’s hands.
“It is my belief it should be regulated and taxed in the same way as alcohol.”
Coun. Cave also believes the regulation of marijuana would help the community by adding taxation revenue, allowing improvements to the community to move forward.
“The revenue derived from taxed sales of marijuana is instant money that could come from higher levels of government, allowing the municipality to proceed with projects we otherwise would not be able to,” he explained.
“Our city has a list of projects as well as infrastructure that needs replacing, other cities throughout the province have their own issues; we could all use that money.”
Coun. Laurey-Anne Roodenburg thinks residents of Quesnel have the same feelings regarding this issue as those who voted on it at UBCM.
“I have a feeling that if you were to do a poll in Quesnel, it would have the same type of results as the voting did at UBCM, very close with no clear winner,” she said.
Coun. Sushil Thapar believes decriminalization is a feasible option, but the government will see the money saved in policing spent in hospitals.
“We don’t have an adequate amount of police officers trained to catch over usage,” Thapar explained.
“We are paying through accidents caused by people who are driving high.”
Thapar also said he thinks the pros and cons need to be weighed before deciding on decriminalization.
“One study done by a teacher on people who were using the drug and people who weren’t using the drug found those using it had a lower IQ,” Thapar said.
“This is not something people need.”
Now that the resolutions were endorsed at UBCM, Mayor Mary Sjostrom said the union is waiting for a response from Ottawa.
“There was a workshop on this issue at our convention in September,” she said.
“The resolutions passed and that has been forwarded to the federal government.”
Sjostrom explained that while the decision is not made in Quesnel, there will be certain impacts felt in the community if the resolutions are carried.
“I am sure there would be impacts on our operations such as bylaw and policing if legislation was changed,” she said.
More information on the resolutions passed at UBCm can be found at http://www.ubcm.ca/EN/main/resolutions.html.