B.C. civic leaders vote to scrap pot law

On a split vote Wednesday, municipal leaders voted to pressure Ottawa to decriminalize marijuana

B.C. civic leaders have voted to support the decriminalization of marijuana, at a gathering of provincial municipalities Wednesday.

Delegates at the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM), a civic lobby group, voted in favour of a resolution calling for the decriminalization and taxation of marijuana.

The resolution itself won’t change any existing laws, but it will put pressure on senior levels of government, namely Ottawa, to make those changes.

The delegates were divided amongst those who believe decriminalization will lead to more harmful drugs becoming more available on the street, while those in favour say current laws allow organized crime to make massive profits.

Surrey’s representatives voted against the initiative.

Against the resolution were Mayor Dianne Watts, and Couns. Marvin Hunt, Bruce Hayne and Linda Hepner. Coun. Barinder Rasode voted in favour, while Couns. Mary Martin, Barbara Steele and Judy Villeneuve were not at the vote.

Rasode said she’s read a lot on the subject and believes the current system simply isn’t working.

She said it was an extremely tough decision.

Mayor Dianne Watts said if anything is going to be done about marijuana laws, it has to be part of a much larger public policy initiative, that includes, addiction, marijuana grow operations and gangs.

“The decriminalization of marijuana is not going to solve the gang problem,” Watts said.

Hepner said there simply isn’t enough information there to make a snap decision on the floor.

The marijuana resolution is one of more than 200 being considered by about 1,500 delegates in Victoria this week.

One of them, calls for more federal disclosure to municipalities as to where medical marijuana is being grown.

As of Wednesday afternoon, that vote hadn’t taken place.

Surrey’s fire chief says its known the residences where those crops are grown have a significantly higher chance of burning than a regular home.

The convention opened Monday with two days of study sessions, forums and tours. On Thursday, NDP Leader Adrian Dix will address the delegates followed by Premier Christy Clark, who will give the closing address on Friday.

@diakiw

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