Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Author: Amy O'Brian - Vancouver Sun
Published: Monday, May 10, 2004
Copyright: 2004 Vancouver Sun
Contact: [email protected]
Vancouver -- A senator, a former police officer and Vancouver's mayor were among those calling for the legalization of marijuana at a weekend conference.
The diverse crowd at Beyond Prohibition, a conference put on by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, gathered early Saturday morning to hear arguments for the legalization of marijuana, and to exchange ideas on how to make legalization successful.
Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell started off the day with a personal disclaimer that he has never "inhaled," followed by a bold proposal for legalization.
"I would legalize this and tax the living hell out of it," Campbell said. "And I would ensure that every single dollar, every dollar of that tax went into the health care system."
Similar sentiments were shared by the other speakers, who argued that lifting the marijuana prohibition would benefit the national economy, boost tax revenue, and free up police resources to target organized crime and others who profit from the current illegal drug trade.
Walter McKay, a former Vancouver police officer who is now working on a PhD at the University of B.C., argued that all illegal drugs -- not just marijuana -- should be legalized and regulated.
"Far too much time, money and resources are being spent keeping a product away that the public wants," he said in an interview after his presentation.
"We tried this with prohibition 70 years ago and failed miserably. All we did was make Al Capone a multimillionaire. We just never learned."
If drugs were legalized and dispensed responsibly, McKay said, police could turn their focus to stopping organized crime.
"That's where policing is required. We need to stop these shootings and killings."
McKay envisions a world where marijuana would be sold to adults only at regulated outlets such as liquor stores, while harder drugs such as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamines would be available through doctors and pharmacists.
"It's a social issue and it's been made a criminal issue for over 30 years and we've seen the results of it," he said.
Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs, argued that prohibition's consequences have gone "way beyond health problems and the growth of organized crime" and now threaten "the basis of democracy, economy and the rule of law in many countries or regions of the world."
Nolin said he lobbied former prime minister Jean Chretien and is lobbying current Prime Minister Paul Martin to legalize marijuana in a responsible, regulated manner that would incorporate policies on education and prevention.
Despite his push for legalization, Nolin is opposed to Bill C-10, which would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
The legislation would mean people could not be charged with a criminal offence for possessing pot, but could be given a ticket.
Instead, Nolin would like to see absolute legalization.
"When the policy is zero tolerance, it's stupid."
Nolin said adequate education and prevention programs cannot be established with a zero tolerance policy and the federal government needs to listen to the public's demands for legalization.
"Government reacts to populations. It's not the other way around," he said.
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