Waters: More mayors should follow Baker on pot issue

The call for legalization—or at least decriminalization—of marijuana in B.C. is getting louder.

The call for legalization—or at least decriminalization—of marijuana in B.C. is getting louder.

Recently eight B.C. mayors—including James Baker of Lake Country, Robert Sawatzky of Vernon, Chris Pieper of Armstrong, Howie Cyr of Enderby, John Ranns of Metchosin on Vancouver Island, Darrell Mussamotto of the City of North Vancouver, Burnaby’s Derek Corrigan and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson—released a letter they had all signed calling on Victoria to tax and regulate the drug as a way to stop gang violence in this province and help make communities safer.

They sent the letter to Premier Christy Clark, NDP leader Adrian Dix and B.C. Conservative leader John Cummins.

The mayors’ call comes on the heels of similar demands by four former Vancouver mayors and four former B.C. attorneys-general. The attorneys-general served in both Liberal and NDP governments of the past.

Unlike some who staunchly hold on to the view that lumps marijuana into the same category as heroin and cocaine and considers it just as worthy of a legal ban, the latest group of mayors to speak out have come to the realization that the pot prohibition is helping feed B.C.’s growing culture of crime.

In this latest letter, the mayors say the current prohibition has led to large-scale grow ops, increased organized crime, ongoing gang violence and the need for increased police budgets to deal with the problems.

Without saying it directly, they make a strong case that with more marijuana available than ever before, it’s clear the pot portion of the “war on drugs” has been lost.

The mayors say 85 per cent of the province’s marijuana industry is controlled by criminal groups and the total industry is now worth $7 billion per year.

“It is time to tax and strictly regulate marijuana under a public health framework,” wrote the mayors.

The fact the letter was written by four rural area mayors—leaders of smaller B.C. communities—as well as three big city mayors shows that the issue is not just one that affects the Lower Mainland.

With the federal Conservative government making it clear it will not support any relaxation of the current laws concerning marijuana at the national level, any move by the province is likely still a long ways off.

But that does not mean the mayors’ call should go unheeded.

As B.C. municipalities like to say, there is strength in numbers. So, more mayors should join the call.

Here in the Central Okanagan, Kelowna’s, West Kelowna’s and Peachland’s mayors should jump aboard the wagon Baker has helped set in motion.

The Lake County mayor deserves credit for taking a stand on a controversial topic.

Now, do his colleagues in the other Central Okanagan municipalities have the guts to follow suit?