Nelson City Council passes resolution supporting UBCM’s call to decriminalize marijuana and study regulation and taxation

October 9, 2012 Nelson City Council debated and passed a resolution supporting the motion passed in September at the Union of BC Municipalities.  Moved by city Councillor Donna Macdonald, this was the second time Nelson council was debating a cannabis regulation and taxation motion. In early June, Nelson council entered into a heated debate on the issue and deferred the conversation until after UBCM.

Here is the full text of the resolution:

Decriminalization of Marijuana

WHEREAS costly cannabis prohibition efforts have failed to effectively limit the availability of cannabis, especially to our youth, and insteed has created a large financial opportunity for organized crime, fueling an increasing violent illegal market ; and

WHEREAS academic, law enforcement and health experts, including the Health Officers Council of BC, believe that a strictly regulated framework for cannabis control has the potential to reduce rates of cannabis use. raise substantial tax revenue for education and rehabilitation, undermine organized crime. and reduce law enforcement time and expenditures,

That Nelson City Council endorse UBCM resolution A5 (2012 Convention), which calls for the decriminalization of marijuana and for research on the regulation and taxation of marijuana, base on a public health approach, and

That Council’s support for this approach be communicated to the Provincial and Federal Ministers of Health and Justice, and to Stop the Violence BC.

Britsh Columbia Municipalities Show Support for Cannabis Regulation and Taxation

Over the last couple of months, Stop the Violence BC has been working closely with municipalities around BC to discuss and pass motions calling for the regulation and taxation of cannabis.

To date, four city councils, Enderby, North Vancouver, Vernon and Victoria have joined the call for a public health approach to cannabis regulation and taxation in British Columbia.

Please see below for full text of the suggested motion.

Enderby’s motion will be made available online here.

North Vancouver’s motion will be available shortly.

Vancouver’s motion can be downloaded here.

Vernon’s motion can be viewed here, on page 4 of the PDF.

Victoria’s motion can be viewed here.


Motion Supporting a Regulatory Approach to Cannabis Control:

WHEREAS cannabis prohibition efforts have failed to effectively limit the availability of cannabis, especially to our youth;

WHEREAS cannabis prohibition has created a large financial opportunity that has fueled an increasingly violent illegal market with expanding organized crime involvement;

WHEREAS 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 time and expenditures;

WHEREAS many BC municipalities are increasingly affected by the harms of cannabis prohibition (e.g. grow-ops, etc), which negatively impacts community health and safety;

WHEREAS BC municipalities are increasingly bearing the financial burden of failed policy approaches that emphasize enforcement of marijuana prohibition over evidence-based policies, consuming significant portions of municipal budgets and diverting law enforcement attention away from criminal activities where police involvement can better improve community safety;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that Council XXX supports the taxation and regulation of cannabis to address the ineffectiveness and harms of cannabis prohibition, and write to the Southern Interior Local Government Association, Union of BC Municipalities, Federation of Canadian Municipalities, and Provincial and Federal Ministers in the Justice and Health departments to inform them of our support.

Global Commission Members Call on Canadian Government to avoid mandatory minimum sentences for marijuana

To: Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Canadian Senators
From: Louise Arbour, Richard Branson, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Ruth Dreifuss, and Thorvald Stoltenberg,
Re: Reject mandatory minimum sentences under Bill C-10

Dear Prime Minister Harper and Canadian Senators:

We are writing to you on behalf of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, which is dedicated to reducing harms caused by drugs to people and societies. Our Commission includes global leaders such as the past presidents of Colombia and Mexico; former Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan; former US Secretary of State George Schultz; and business experts such as Virgin Group founder Richard Branson and former Chairman of the US Federal Reserve Paul Volcker.

Many Global Commission members have first-hand experience with the violent illegal markets that emerge in drug-producing regions, where corruption, organized crime and violence are inevitable consequences of cannabis prohibition that cannot be successfully addressed by strengthening anti-cannabis law enforcement. We hope that Canada—where both production and consumption are an issue—remains open to new and better ideas.

Building more prisons, tried for decades in the United States under its failed War on Drugs, only deepens the drug problem and does not reduce cannabis supply or rates of use. Instead, North American youth now report easier access to cannabis than to alcohol or tobacco. And yet, today, with the proposed implementation of mandatory prison sentences for minor cannabis-related offences under Bill C-10, Canada is at the threshold of continuing to repeat the same grave mistakes as other countries, moving further down a path that has proven immensely destructive and ineffective at meeting its objectives.

As was the case with alcohol prohibition, evidence shows that increasing the intensity of drug law enforcement through mandatory minimum sentencing and other legal sanctions will not reduce the crime and violence associated with the cannabis industry. Instead, these laws will serve only to further entrench control of the cannabis market in the hands of violent criminals and waste precious tax dollars.

This has been the experience internationally. In fact, among the things that are driving organized crime and violence in British Columbia and other Canadian provinces is, although on a lesser scale, just what is driving the violence in Mexico—demand for drugs in the United States. Tougher drug laws in Canada will not address this root cause. At this late date, we hope that Canada will elect to adopt an evidence-based approach to controlling cannabis, in the face of overwhelming evidence that the proposed path through Bill C-10 is destructive, expensive and ineffective.

Debate about ending cannabis prohibition often pits those in favour of persisting with the damaging and ineffective War on Drugs against those who downplay the risks and harms of cannabis use. Canadians should take a third, evidence-based approach, which is advocated by the Global Commission and local and national organizations such as the Stop the Violence BC coalition. The Global Commission fully endorses the Stop the Violence BC coalition and its call to reduce corruption, organized crime and gang violence by taxing and regulating cannabis use under a public health framework. Indeed, the call is entirely consistent with the recommendations of our first report. Taxation and regulation models should be evaluated, as they have great potential to undermine the power of organized crime and safeguard the health and safety of Canadians. Given the experience with tobacco consumption, this approach also has the potential to actually reduce rates of cannabis use while also generating significant tax revenue.

For decades, Canadians and their leaders have embraced positive societal change and the rights of all citizens, not just in Canada but around the world. Canada has a proud international tradition of innovative and realistic policies; tougher drug law enforcement tactics such as mandatory minimum sentencing for minor drug law offences will put a huge strain on Canadian taxpayers, will not have the intended effect of creating safer communities, and will instead further entrench the marijuana industry in the hands of organized crime groups.

The clear path forward to best control cannabis in Canada and other jurisdictions throughout the world is to move away from failed law enforcement strategies and to pursue a public health approach aimed also at undermining the root causes of organized crime. Canada has the opportunity to take a leadership role in implementing such policies. And it would be completely in keeping with Canada’s global reputation as a modern, tolerant and forward-thinking nation.


Louise Arbour
GCDP Commissioner
Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
President of the International Crisis Group, Canada

Richard Branson
GCDP Commissioner
Advocate for Social Causes
Founder of the Virgin Group
Co-founder of The Elders, UK

Fernando Henrique Cardoso
Chair, GCDP
Former President of Brazil

Ruth Dreifuss
GCDP Commissioner
Former President of Switzerland and Minister of Home Affairs

Thorvald Stoltenberg
GCDP Commissioner
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs and UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Norway

cc: Canadian Premiers and Leaders of the Opposition

What coalition members are saying

Past and current members of law enforcement and the legal community

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David Bratzer, Police Officer and Board of Directors, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition:

“Marijuana prohibition may be well-intentioned, but my personal opinion is that it has failed in BC and around the world. Prohibition has created a huge and violent criminal enterprise that is becoming more dangerous with each passing day, and I strongly support controlled marijuana legalization as an effective way to fight crime and protect our communities.”

Vince Cain, Retired RCMP Chief Superintendent and Former BC Chief Coroner:

“As a retired RCMP Chief Superintendent and Chief Coroner for British Columbia, I have witnessed the devastating human consequences, and social and economic costs, attributable to this drug prohibition. In BC, much of the organized crime and interrelated violence springs from marijuana prohibition. Well past the point of no return, common sense cries out to replace the long tried, but failed, model, with a public health vision and plan. A multi-disciplinary approach to these long standing issues will largely eliminate organized crime (gang) profits, generate public tax revenue and establish more positive, constructive avenues of control for all affected agencies. There is no time like the present.”

Ross Lander, Retired Justice, BC Supreme Court:

“I have read the report produced by the Stop Violence B.C. Coalition. With its contents I agree in all respects. I am providing this statement as a now retired Justice of the Supreme Court ofBritish Columbia and the opinions expressed are my thoughts alone as a citizen of Canada. The word futile is the most apt word to describe the long and unsuccessful “War on Drugs.” My experience as a trial judge has shown me that greed is a primary motivation of drug dealers who are averse to honest labour and obtaining tax free income from trafficking in cannabis–the monies obtained from illicit sales are staggering. When the courts impose harsh sentences on convicted drug dealers there are invariably some person or persons willing to fill the publics’ insatiable demand for marijuana. This is why I support the regulated sale of marijuana–not just in in B.C., but in Canada as a whole. Over time it is obvious that the police and judicial systems cannot extinguish the illicit production and sale of cannabis.”

Randie Long, Former Federal Prosecutor (Nanaimo):

“As a federal prosecutor who regularly dealt with marijuana offences, I can say with confidence that the criminal justice approach is an ineffective and ultimately harmful strategy for addressing marijuana use, possession, and trafficking in BC. Society is beginning to recognize that marijuana illegality rather than the drug itself is driving much of the crime and violence and it’s time the courts caught up.”

Walter McKay, Former Police Officer and Consultant, WM Consulting and Director of International Affairs and Founder, Asociación Mexicana de Reducción de Riesgos y Daños:

“I am 100% behind this report, its findings and its recommendations. The carnage that has been wrought upon Mexico, its people and its institutions, through Calderón’s war on drugs, cannot be solely blamed on prohibition. However, it is my firm belief that the policies of prohibition, especially of marijuana, directly contributed to the over 47,000 people who have been killed in drug-war related violence in this country since 2007.  As a former Vancouver Police officer who worked the streets of Vancouver’s Downtown East-side I was directly exposed to the multitude of victims who needlessly suffered for their addictions due to Canada´s prohibitionist stance with regards to marijuana.”



Neil Boyd, LLM; Professor & Associate Director, School of Criminology, SFU:

“The criminal prohibition of cannabis in Canada has been a dismal failure. In the past 30 years the price has decreased, and availability has increased. Changes in rates of use cannot be systematically related to law enforcement activities or to any legislative changes. In the absence of careful regulation, consumers continue to consume a product without adequate information about its risks, and our policies continue to reward dealers and growers, without any corresponding public benefits.”

Thomas Kerr, PhD; Director, Urban Health Research Initiative, BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS and Associate Professor, Dept. of Medicine, UBC

Click the image to hear Dr. Kerr speak about why he supports Stop the Violence BC.

“Our research group has long been studying issues related to drug policy and, in particular, some of the social problems that come out of illicit drug use, such as violence at a broader level. We’re also very interested in the way in which the criminalization of drug use contributes to drug-related harm. And right now is a very important time to be looking at that issue as we’re seeing a massive growth in organized crimes and related violence here in British Columbia. In particular, many people are aware that the cannabis trade has grown exponentially, there’s a huge amount of concern about the threats to safety that that causes within our communities, and for good reasons. Right now we are trying to critically evaluate that situation, and to come up with some solutions. And because our group has long been interested in drug policy, this is a natural fit for us.”

Jean Shoveller, PhD; Professor & CIHR/PHAC Applied Public Health Chair, School of Population & Public Health, UBC and Senior Scholar, Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research

“I am very supportive of the coalition’s call for a public discussion about cannabis regulation within public health framework. These discussions would represent a new way to find effective strategies to address both crime and public health concerns – and, moreover, offers positive momentum towards reducing violence in our communities.”


Medical and public health professionals

Terri Betts, BScPharm, ACPR; Clinical Coordinator, Pharmacy, Lions Gate Hospital:

“It is very clear that the current strategy of prohibition of cannabis is not having the desired effect. In fact, the consequences are detrimental to public health and safety. We need to remove the “glamour” of cannabis use for adolescents, and the profits for organized crime, by regulating it. Taxation revenue could be directed to substance abuse treatment programs, and resources currently used for law enforcement could be redirected to investigating and prosecuting more serious crimes.”

Timothy Temple, MBBS, CCFP, FRSA; Physician, Dept. of Family Practice, UBC:

“After 35 years in Family Practice in BC, caring for many addicted patients, & being a strong supporter of evidence based practice with a holistic/empathic approach to care; I fully support the call for a change in the regulation of cannabis.”

Caroline Ferris, MD, CCFP, FCFP; Physician, Creekside Withdrawal Management Centre and Clinical Instructor, Dept. of Family Practice, UBC and Clinical Faculty Team, Dept. of Family Practice Residency Program, UBC

“I support measures which help ensure a safe supply of cannabis for medical users, and helps to eliminate cannabis-related criminal behaviour at the supply end as well as violent acts such as grow-rips, beatings and other gang activity.”


Video: Stop the Violence BC – The link between cannabis prohibition and organized crime

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Video: Why do you support Stop the Violence BC?

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