Enderby politicians want marijuana decriminalized and taxed.
A majority of council voted Monday to ask senior government to regulate cannabis as a way of reducing crime, rationalizing police resources and creating a new source of revenue for communities.
“We’re not saying we agree with marijuana but the current process is not working and it fuels the gangs,” said Mayor Howie Cyr, a former RCMP officer.
“Instead of throwing countless people into jail (for marijuana possession) and spending money on enforcement, treat it like cigarettes or prescription drugs.”
Cyr believes marijuana-related investigations, which can take years, can be a drain on policing resources, and they prevent authorities from dealing with other matters.
“Smaller communities paying for policing are being hit really hard.”
Cyr suggests a new approach to marijuana could also benefit those who use the substance.
“We need to regulate it and tax it and put money into education and rehabilitation,” he said.
Lone opposition came from Coun. Beryl Ludwig.
“Any drug addicts or former addicts you talk to say they started with marijuana,” she said.
“Marijuana is the gateway to harder drugs.”
Ludwig admits, though, that she understands the concerns about drug-related crime and police officers spending time on marijuana grow-ops that keep surfacing in the community.
“It would be nice to have the taxes from marijuana but would the taxes be enough to pay for the people that need rehabilitation?” she said.
“It’s hard to legalize something that wrecks so many lives.”
The officer in charge of the North Okanagan RCMP was reluctant to comment on Enderby council’s decision.
“The RCMP’s position is the politicians make the laws and we enforce them,” said Supt. Reg Burgess.
“At this point, we are going with the laws given to us to enforce and there is no change there.”
Council decided to lobby for cannabis control after a request from Stop the Violence B.C., which advocates for a new approach to marijuana.
“The coalition, along with other organizations such as the Health Officers Council of B.C. and the Canadian Public Health Association, believes that a strictly regulated legal market for marijuana could better control availability of the drug while at the same time starve organized crime of this enormous cash cow,” said Evan Wood, Stop the Violence B.C. spokesperson and a University of B.C. professor of medicine.