B.C. mayors cite gang violence, crime, costs and community health and safety in drive to overturn marijuana prohibition

Municipal leaders call for Clark, Dix and Cummins to support regulating and taxing cannabis

April 26, 2012 [Vancouver, BC]—A coalition of B.C. mayors is urging provincial political leaders to support the regulation and taxation of cannabis to better protect communities, reduce crime and undercut gang activity resulting from the illegal marijuana trade.

In a letter addressed to Premier Christy Clark, Opposition leader Adrian Dix and BC Conservative Party leader John Cummins, mayors representing municipalities from the Interior, Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland asked provincial leaders to embrace a public health framework that calls for strict marijuana regulation and taxation.

“Given the ongoing gang activity, widespread availability of marijuana and high costs associated with enforcement, leaders at all levels of government must take responsibility for marijuana policy,” the mayors write in their letter to B.C.’s three major political party leaders. “We are asking you as provincial leaders to take a new approach to marijuana regulation.”

The letter was sent following several recent motions passed by municipal councils across the province supporting a regulatory approach to cannabis policy. Most recently, City of Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson announced today that a motion for Vancouver City Council to endorse the Stop the Violence BC campaign will be on the council agenda next week.

“This is not a partisan issue,” says Robertson. “Widespread access to marijuana for our youth, grow-ops that provide funds for organized crime, and significant costs to taxpayers for enforcement are all compelling reasons to re-examine our failed approach to prohibition.”

“We see the detrimental effects of marijuana prohibition in our communities on a daily basis,” says Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan. “Huge profits for organized crime and widespread gang violence in our cities are the result of this failed policy. We put our citizens and communities at risk by not taking action now.”

In their letter, the mayors cited say their constituents are ready for a new approach to marijuana policy. They point to an Angus Reid poll showing that a mere 12% of British Columbians support the current approach to controlling marijuana while the vast majority (66%) support taxation and regulation – the position championed by the Stop the Violence BC Coalition – rather than prohibition.

“We stand together as B.C. mayors because we think our communities will be safer and our children better protected from criminal elements if we overturn marijuana prohibition and implement policies that strictly regulate the adult use of cannabis,” says City of North Vancouver Mayor Darrell Mussatto, whose council passed a motion supporting the regulation of cannabis on April 23, 2012.

The mayors have stepped forward in an effort to draw attention to the issues of crime and violence directly related to marijuana prohibition, asking their counterparts across the province to join them.

“We are all well aware of the human, social and financial costs of marijuana prohibition, and it does not make sense to bear them any longer,” says Robert Sawatzky, Mayor of Vernon. “We invite mayors from across B.C. to consider the escalating costs of prohibition, and join our efforts to implement evidence-based cannabis policies that reflect our commitment as municipal leaders to community health and safety.”

In their letter, the mayors’ endorsed Stop the Violence BC (STVBC), a coalition of academic, legal, law enforcement and health experts campaigning to reform cannabis laws to reduce the harms associated with the illegal cannabis trade, including gang violence. The mayors join a growing list of recent high-profile endorsements, including four former mayors of Vancouver, the Health Officers Council of BC and four former B.C. attorneys general.

“As B.C. mayors, we support the Stop the Violence BC campaign,” the letter states. “It is time to tax and strictly regulate marijuana under a public health framework; regulating marijuana would allow the government to rationally address the health concerns of marijuana, raise government tax revenue and eliminate the huge profits from the marijuana industry that flow directly to organized crime.”

Dr. Evan Wood, founder of STVBC, welcomed the mayors’ support and noted the growing movement among municipal politicians to overturn cannabis prohibition. He noted that 75% of the 240 delegates at the annual conference for the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities recently supported a resolution that calls on Ottawa to change its marijuana laws.

“We are seeing community leaders around the province take charge and decisively call for action from senior levels of government to change the status quo regarding marijuana policy,” says Wood. “It is time for our provincial and federal leaders to listen to what the public is saying, engage in discussion, and come to a resolution that better reflects the wishes of their constituents.”

  • For a copy of the letter please click here.
  • To join the STVBC conversation, please visit the STVBC Facebook page
  • Updates on the campaign are publicly available on Twitter
  • 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

Additional Mayors’ comments:

“The efforts of the Stop the Violence campaign seeks the support of all people to allow for the legal and regulated growth and regulated sale of Marijuana, and support the health agencies in the education and ultimate non-use of this drug.  The education and advertising relating to health concerns of smoking has driven down the use of cigarettes immensely in the past 20 years.” –Chris Pieper, Mayor of Armstrong

Lake Country
“Drug prohibition is a failed policy by any measures used with regard to public health and safety outcomes.  The cost of prohibition continues to rise in terms of criminal activity and associated social costs of enforcement. It is time for senior governments to implement controls, regulation and taxation of all drugs to do away with the violence of the illegal trade.” – James Baker, Mayor of Lake Country

“My council whole heartily agrees that we need to consider alternatives approaches to the current, failed system of cannabis prohibition.” – John Ranns, Mayor of the District of Metchosin


Media: to interview the mayors, please contact:

James Baker, Mayor of Lake Country
Chris Pieper, Mayor of Armstrong
Derek Corrigan, Mayor of Burnaby
Contact: Maryann Manuel
John Ranns, Mayor of District of Metchosin
Contact: Tammie Van Swieten
Howie Cyr, Mayor of Enderby
Gregor Robertson, Mayor of Vancouver
Contact: Braeden Caley
Darrell Mussatto, Mayor of City of North Vancouver
Contact: Alison Brookfield
Robert Sawatsky, Mayor of Vernon

The city councils of four B.C. municipalities have already passed motions in support of STVBC, click here for more information.

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/

To interview Dr. Evan Wood, founder, Stop the Violence BC coalition, or another member of STVBC please contact:

Crystal Reinitz
604 623 3007 ext. 301

[button link=”https://41i388.p3cdn1.secureserver.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/2012Apr26-STVBC-Mayors-Endorsement-Letter.pdff” color=”orange”]Download the Letter Here[/button]