Kelowna to hear pot legalization argument

Just as alcohol prohibition failed, laws aimed at snuffing out Canada's underground drug industry have fallen short: Stop the Violence BC

Just as alcohol prohibition failed, laws aimed at snuffing out Canada’s underground drug industry have fallen short, say members of a coalition in Kelowna today to talk about legalizing and regulating pot.

“If the goal is to reduce the availability of marijuana, it’s clearly been a dramatic failure,” said Dr. Evan Wood, a founding member of the coalition called Stop the Violence BC, who will be speaking at UBC Okanagan at 12:30 p.m. and the Rotary Centre for the Arts at 7 p.m.

“As it stands now, we know marijuana is more available to young people than alcohol and tobacco… the price of marijuana is going down, and the potency is going up.”

Conditions for organized crime improved in tandem, as what was once viewed as a basement pursuit morphed into what the Fraser Institute, in a recent report, deemed to be a $7 billion a year business.

“Then we spend millions on lawyers, judges and prisons in this cat and mouse game,” said Dr. Wood. “By every metric, prohibition has not achieved its stated objectives.”

Just imagine, however, a Canada where  government sanctioned pot is available at a shop that’s open the same hours as government run liquor stores.

The cost is prohibitive to kids, because every level of government has applied a levy.

Those dollars, in turn, are funnelled back into Health Authorities so they can implement education program, en par to what’s been done with tobacco.

“We dramatically reduced cigarette smoking rates with regulatory measures,” said Wood. “And with this we can bring tools to bear that dramatically reduce use and take the cash cow away from organized crime while generating tax revenue.”

It’s a concept that’s gained more traction in recent months.

Stop the Violence brought in heavy hitting backers as it got off the ground, including four former Vancouver mayors, current Mayor Gregor Robertson and doctors involved with harm reduction programs such as Insite.

Earlier this month four former attorneys-general of B.C. added their voices to a chorus, saying current laws are resulting in a worsening spiral of violence and crime, discussions on the matter became louder—especially when posed against the federal government’s tough-on-crime legislation, Bill C-10, that includes harsher sentences for drug offence.

This week those potential policies were further critiqued Global Commission on Drug Policy penned a letter to the federal government, noting it’s “very weird” that Canada is taking a tougher line on marijuana when governments across the globe are reconsidering the war on drugs.

In an open letter to the prime minister, the Brazil-based commission called on Canada to stop pursuing the “destructive, expensive and ineffective” prohibition of pot.

It’s something that Dr. Wood believes is possible, despite Canada’s current political climate.

“We want to reach out across the political spectrum,” he said. “You’d be surprised the support that exists among fiscal conservatives who are seeing how much money that would go to educating and health care, things that people hold dear, wasted on locking up non violent drug dealers.”

That said, the Federal Government is ideologically at odds with that tack, despite its financial possibilities.

“It’s a challenging time, but anyone who takes a sober assessment, will realize we need to change,” said Dr. Wood. “There’s an international debate happening, and it’s long overdue in Canada. We need to work with the federal government to help them understand what needs to be done to really improve community health and safety.”

To learn more, head to one of the Dr. Wood led conversations today or visit www.stoptheviolencebc.org.

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