Former Vancouver Mayors Urge Politicians to Reconsider Marijuana Laws and Stop Gang Violence

Larry Campbell, Michael Harcourt, Sam Sullivan and Philip Owen Endorse Bipartisan Effort to Overturn Prohibition and Reduce Related Crime

November 23, 2011 [Vancouver, Canada] – Four former Vancouver mayors have endorsed the Stop the Violence BC (STVBC) coalition and its call to overturn marijuana prohibition and reduce the harms associated with the illegal marijuana trade, including gang violence.

Larry Campbell, Michael Harcourt, Sam Sullivan and Philip Owen signed and released an open letter to MPs, MLAs, and municipal mayors and councilors in British Columbia today. The letter notes the gang-related violence stemming from marijuana prohibition, and challenges politicians to consider alternative proposals – including legalization and regulation – that would increase taxes to government, remove the illicit profits and market incentives that lead to gang violence, and eliminate costly jail and criminal sanctions against non-violent citizens.

“Marijuana prohibition is – without question – a failed policy,” write the mayors. “It is creating violent, gang-related crime in our communities and fear among our citizens, and adding financial costs for all levels of government at a time when we can least afford them. Politicians cannot ignore the status quo any longer, and must develop and deliver alternative marijuana policies that avoid the social and criminal harms that stem directly from cannabis prohibition.”

The mayors’ letter calls for politicians to open and help drive debate on new marijuana policies, identifying this as an important step in engaging British Columbians in a policy discussion recent polling data show they are ready for.

“It is unconscionable, unacceptable and unreasonable that the criminal element in B.C. is allowed to grow and thrive in B.C. due to inaction on the part of the politicians,” said Sam Sullivan, who served 12 years as a city councilor before being elected mayor of Vancouver in 2005. “Politicians must play a key role the development of new policies that can really provide safer, stronger communities.”

Poll results reflect political inaction, voter skepticism

Although politicians are elected to lead, a new poll shows that British Columbians have little faith that politicians can design policies that effectively reduce criminal, health and social harms stemming from the illegal marijuana trade. The Angus Reid poll shows that just 32% of British Columbians trust municipal politicians to develop effective marijuana policy. Trust in federal and provincial politicians is even lower – at 28% (federal) and 27% (provincial).

Meanwhile, far more British Columbians say they distrust municipal (62%), provincial (69%), or federal (68%) politicians to design policies to effectively reduce harms stemming from the illegal marijuana trade.

“Although British Columbians do not trust their politicians to lead the way on effective marijuana policy, politicians must prove the public wrong,” said Larry Campbell. “Politicians have tremendous access to information, expertise and the levers of power, and must use all of the tools at their disposal to fight gang violence by implementing rational marijuana policies.”

The Angus Reid poll was commissioned by STVBC, a new coalition of academic, legal, law enforcement and health experts. Last month, STVBC released the first of a series of reports and polling results aimed at pressuring politicians to legally regulate marijuana sales under a public health framework.

“These poll results reinforce the fact that British Columbians are way ahead of those they have elected in recognizing the destructive outcomes from marijuana prohibition,” said Dr. Evan Wood, a member of the STVBC coalition and Director of the Urban Health Research Initiative at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. “It’s time politicians of all stripes consider the gang violence and criminal activity resulting from marijuana prohibition, and enact policies that reflect the desire of British Columbians for change.”

Polling results released today show that British Columbians have much more trust in scientists and the police than politicians to design constructive policies to deal with harms related to the illegal marijuana trade. Sixty-eight percent of British Columbians trust scientists to design such policies and have similarly high trust in their local police forces (66%) and the RCMP (65%).

“Constituents in British Columbia are demanding change on marijuana policy but don’t trust their politicians to positively enact it,” said Mario Canseco, Vice President, Angus Reid Public Opinion. “The lack of trust in politicians on this issue cuts across the voting spectrum and includes voters for all political parties, including those who supported the Conservatives in the last federal election.”

In fact, 55% of those polled who voted Conservative in the last federal election say they distrust the ability of federal politicians to design effective policies. In addition, a significant majority of British Columbians stated they are dissatisfied with the way politicians—at the federal (78%), provincial (78%) and municipal (73%) levels—are responding to the problems stemming from the illegal marijuana industry in British Columbia.

British Columbians also want their politicians to open a dialogue around reducing the harms of marijuana prohibition. Fifty-six percent of British Columbians polled said they would have a more favourable opinion of a politician who promised to have experts and interested citizens design and evaluate a new marijuana strategy for British Columbia aimed at reducing harms of marijuana prohibition, and 29% said it would make no difference. Only 6% said this promise would lead to a less favourable opinion.

Angus Reid polling results released last month showed a mere 12% of British Columbians support keeping current marijuana laws in place and 77% of British Columbians disagreed that marijuana possession should be a criminal offense.

“Unfortunately, developing an alternative to marijuana prohibition is an issue in search of political leadership even though British Columbians clearly say that prohibition does not work and new policies have the potential to generate widespread public support,” said Michael Harcourt.

Philip Owen agreed. “It’s time politicians listened to their constituents and woke up to the possible benefits of a new legalization, regulation and taxation regime.”


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

For quotes from coalition members, photos and links to videos of coalition members speaking about the report, please visit

About Angus Reid Public Opinion

Angus Reid Public Opinion is the Public Affairs practice of Vision Critical headed by Dr. Angus Reid: an industry visionary who has spent more than four decades asking questions to figure out what people feel, how they think and who they will vote for.

Media: to receive polling results and talk to Mario Canseco, Dr. Evan Wood, other members of the Stop the Violence BC Coalition, or the former mayors please contact:

Crystal Reinitz
604.623.3007 ext. 301

[button link=”” color=”orange”]Download Letter[/button] [button link=”” color=”orange”]Download Poll Results[/button]