Former Attorneys General Call on BC Leaders to End Cannabis Prohibition

Former Attorneys General Call on BC Leaders to End Cannabis Prohibition

Colin Gabelmann, Ujjal Dosanjh, Graeme Bowbrick and Geoff Plant Say Legalized, Regulated System Will Reduce Gang Activity, Ease Burden on Court System

[Vancouver, BC] – Four former British Columbian attorneys general are calling on Premier Christy Clark and NDP opposition leader Adrian Dix to endorse legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana to help stop gang activity associated with the illegal marijuana trade, raise tax revenue and ease strain on the province’s overburdened court system.

The letter to the political leaders – signed by Colin Gabelmann, Ujjal Dosanjh, Graeme Bowbrick, and Geoff Plant – was released in the aftermath of escalating gang violence in the Lower Mainland that resulted in multiple public shootings in Vancouver and Surrey in recent weeks.

“The case demonstrating the failure and harms of marijuana prohibition is airtight,” write the attorneys general to BC’s political leaders. “Massive profits for organized crime, widespread gang violence, easy access to illegal cannabis for our youth, reduced community safety and significant—and escalating—costs to taxpayers.”

The AGs’ letter urges provincial politicians to lead the change in marijuana drug policy and encourage the federal government to abandon mandatory minimum sentences for minor and non-violent marijuana-related offences. The former AGs – who were responsible for BC’s criminal justice system and addressing gang crime and violence – want BC and Canada to pursue a regulation and taxation strategy to better protect community health and safety while at the same time undermining gang profits.

“It’s time for our political leaders to accept and act on the overwhelming evidence linking marijuana prohibition to organized crime and gang violence,” said Geoff Plant, who served as attorney general from 2001 to 2005. “Punitive laws such as mandatory minimum sentences are clearly not the solution. Instead, taxation and regulation under a public health framework is the best way forward.”

Former AGs join growing list calling for politicians to end cannabis prohibition

In their letter, the former attorneys general endorsed Stop the Violence BC (STVBC), a coalition of academic, legal, law enforcement and health experts, and its campaign to overturn marijuana prohibition and reduce the harms associated with the illegal marijuana trade, including gang violence.

The former AGs, who represent more than a dozen years of experience as attorney general, join four former Vancouver mayors and the Health Officers Council of BC in their endorsement of STVBC’s call to legally regulate the sale of marijuana under a public health framework. Citing the mounting evidence reinforcing the harms and futility of cannabis prohibition and overwhelming support from the public, the former AGs called overturning marijuana prohibition a “major opportunity for leadership from the provincial government.”

A recent Angus Reid poll commissioned by STVBC found that 77% of British Columbians disagreed that marijuana possession should be a criminal offence and that 78% are dissatisfied with the way politicians at the provincial level are responding to the problems stemming from the illegal marijuana industry in B.C.

“British Columbians have lost faith in the ability of their elected representatives to enact cannabis laws that are in the public’s best interest,” said Ujjal Dosanjh, BC’s attorney general from 1995 to 2000 and premier from 2000 to 2001. “Our politicians must take a leadership role in the development of new policies that will end gang violence and create safer communities.”

To provincial and federal politicians who do not support taxation and regulation of marijuana, the former AGs asked that they outline their plan to:

  • Reduce gang violence related to the illegal marijuana trade
  • Ensure the judicial system works effectively in the face of escalating convictions
  • Pay for increased prison and court system costs while the BC government runs deficits
  • Prevent criminal enterprises from targeting BC’s youth for cannabis sales

“Laws that more aggressively enforce prohibition are obviously not the solution,” said Graeme Bowbrick, attorney general from 2000 to 2001. “It’s time for our politicians to listen to their constituents and reconsider our failed approach to cannabis policy.”

“Alcohol prohibition did not work in the 1920s and 1930s and marijuana prohibition does not work today,” said Colin Gabelmann, attorney general from 1991 to 1995. “It’s past time we overturned prohibition and addressed the related problems of gang violence, clogged court systems and the constant drain on the public purse.”

Neil Boyd, Professor, School of Criminology at Simon Fraser University said that the criminal justice system risks failing to deal with serious crimes because of the overburdened criminal justice system and questioned the wisdom of pursuing nonviolent marijuana users and cultivators.

“Politicians should be looking at every responsible means to improve the effectiveness of the criminal justice system and undermine organized crime. Marijuana laws are not only ineffective, but are also a key driver of gang violence in communities throughout B.C.”, said Boyd. ” I hope that Premier Christy Clark’s review of efficiencies in the B.C. justice system will acknowledge that marijuana prohibition creates an endlessly counter-productive stream of charges against peaceful and otherwise law-abiding citizens, and wastes both limited and costly criminal justice resources.”

  • For a copy of the attorneys general letter, please visit http://stoptheviolencebc.org/2012/02/07/former-attorneys-general-endorse-stop-the-violence-bc/
  • To join the STVBC conversation, please visit the STVBC Facebook page (www.facebook.com/StoptheViolenceBC).
  • Updates on the campaign are publicly available on Twitter (www.twitter.com/stvbc).
  • To read the coalition’s first two reports, discover more about the coalition and upcoming events, and learn how to support the effort, please visit www.stoptheviolencebc.org.

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Download a copy of the letter here

About Stop the Violence BC

Stop the Violence BC is a coalition of law enforcement officials, legal experts, public health officials and academic experts from the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, University of Victoria and the University of Northern BC. Coalition members have come together to engage all British Columbians in a discussion aimed at developing and implementing marijuana-related policies that improve public health while reducing social harms, including violent crime.

For a full listing of coalition members and to learn more about the coalition, please visit www.stoptheviolencebc.org

For quotes from coalition members, photos and links to downloadable videos of coalition members speaking about the report, please visit www.stoptheviolencebc.org/coalition-members/

Media: to interview the attorneys general or Dr. Evan Wood, founder, Stop the Violence BC Coalition, please contact:
Mahafrine Petigara
Edelman
604 623 3007 ext. 297
mahafrine.petigara@edelman.com

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