UPDATE: UBCM calls for decriminalization of marijuana
The Union of British Columbia Municipalities is urging the federal government to decriminalize marijuana.
The resolution, which was up for debate at the UBCM's annual convention in Victoria on Wednesday, Sept. 26, calls on "the appropriate government to decriminalize marijuana and research the regulation and taxation of marijuana" and calls current efforts to deal with pot through the police and court system "failed policy."
Of the six members of Kamloops city council at the UBCM conference, four told KTW they were planning to support the resolution in advance of the vote.
"The current policies are not working," said Nancy Bepple, who attended a decriminalization debate earlier this week, one that included a panel of legal and medical experts, including former B.C. attorney-general Geoff Plant.
Bepple said the experts pushing for decriminalization "had a much stronger argument" and she supports efforts to get organized crime out of the pot business.
However, she wants to see the resolution pass with a recommendation that the government also launch an anti-marijuana campaign "making it that there are so few places you can do it, and it's so unacceptable to do, that there's a big incentive not to use it."
She envisions the campaign as being similar to current government efforts to deter people from smoking.
"In the debate yesterday, everyone supported reducing drug use," she said. "So, the issue is more centred around trying to disrupt the violence and the criminal activity that comes out of it."
Donovan Cavers also plans to back the resolution.
"There's a lot of police resources that go into policing marijuana, when I believe that if you regulate it like alcohol, that it works out a lot better," he said, adding tax revenue from pot sales could go to help those with addictions issues.
"There are some good arguments on both sides but, ultimately, I think we spend a lot of money on kind of a losing battle," added Coun. Arjun Singh, who also plans to support the resolution.
However, Singh is not sure what effect the UBCM's decision will have on higher levels of government.
"I have no idea," he said. "I don't have any idea at all."
Cavers is more optimistic.
"It's a large group of elected officials and I think there's quite a bit of lobbying clout in the organization," he said.
Ken Christian said via email he will also support the resolution and supports "harm-reduction strategies in relation to marijuana under a regulatory and taxation scheme, rather than a criminal-law approach."
Mayor Peter Milobar said he has a meeting scheduled during the resolution session and hasn't given the issue much thought since he won't be voting on it.
Only one councillor said she wasn't leaning any particular way on the issue before the vote. Marg Spina planned to go into the resolution session with an open mind, but said attending the earlier debate has given her a lot of information to process.
"I think it's a very serious question. If people are going to use it, wouldn't it be smarter to tax it and the government can then deal with addiction problems in the health-care setting?" she asked.
Spina said the amount of money being spent on the marijuana trade in B.C. — from drug profits to legal fees — is staggering.
"And, you start to imagine, what if that money was going somewhere else, like health care?"
While she doesn't see the UBCM resolution convincing the federal government to make immediate changes to the legislation, Spina said if it passes, it will send a message about public opinion.
"It's taking the pulse," she said.