Castlegar mayor joins Dooley in opposing pot legalization
A campaign to decriminalize marijuana in B.C. is putting local politicians on the spot – including Castlegar’s Mayor Lawrence Chernoff.
A coalition of eight B.C. mayors, through Stop the Violence BC campaign, sent a letter in April urging provincial leaders to “support the regulation and taxation of marijuana”, citing public heath concerns and crime reduction as primary reasons for wanting the change.
Since then, Grand Forks Mayor Brian Taylor brought the contentious issue to his own council, asking them to join with the 13+ other B.C. municipalities in the Stop the Violence campaign. The campaign asks provincial party leaders to pressure the Canadian government for a shift in attitude in drug policy. The provincial and federal governments need to realize that prohibition has been a costly failure and they need to find some other way to manage marijuana, Taylor said in comments to council. (Council did not decide whether to endorse the campaign at this meeting).
Then, just this week, Nelson Mayor John Dooley adamantly refused to sign a letter of support for the campaign, saying, “I will go to the wall on this. In three years, I will go to the wall.”
Asked by Councillor Deb Kozak if that means he has decided to run in the next election, he said, “If this thing (endorsement) goes through, count on it. Count on it. And I’ll win.”
The issue has not yet been brought up in Castlegar council chambers, but Mayor Lawrence Chernoff said he already knows where he’ll stand, should it arise.
“Marijuana’s a drug. I don’t care what kind of drug it is – we’ve been working hard to clean up our community and discourage drug trade. That’s why I supported, and will continue to support, our RCMP Crime Reduction Unit,” he said, adding he’s not convinced that decriminalization will spell the end of gang activities and criminal behaviour.
“Given the direction we’ve tried to take with our community, I don’t see how I could support that campaign.”
Councillor Deb McIntosh, however, said she's in favour of decriminalization.
“Anything we can do to mitigate or reduce criminal activity is worthwhile. Do I think legalization is a cure-all? No, of course not, there will still be crime no matter what we do, and marijuana will be replaced with some other illegal drug.”
That being said, though, she pointed to the spectacular failure of prohibition to wipe out alcohol consumption, and said the pot issue seems awfully similar, in her eyes.
“People are growing it and smoking it anyway – why not regulate and tax it?”
She said she thinks community resources, be it tax dollars or police time, would be better spent on other, more serious concerns.
The issue is not, at this time, slated to come before Castlegar city council as a motion.