Can Pot Decide B.C.’s Next Premier?

A majority of British Columbians are keen to learn more about marijuana legalization and taxation, according to a recent survey.

Nearly 75 per cent of B.C. adults would support a research trial to pilot a regulated market for recreational marijuana use, according to a survey conducted by Angus Reid between April 8-9.

The bulk of the support comes from Vancouver Island and the province’s interior.

“Consistently, our polling results are showing the public is demanding a new approach and turning away from strategies like mandatory minimum sentences for marijuana offenses,” said Mario Canseco, vice president of Angus Reid Public Opinion to CBC News.

The study also suggests pot-friendly political agendas can sway the province’s voters.

Forty-four per cent of survey participants admitted if a political party announced their support for a regulated marijuana market pilot it would improve their opinion of that party. Twelve per cent said it would negatively impact their view.

Marijuana decriminalization has long been a hot topic in the province and provincial lobby groups are intent to make it an election issue.

Stop the Violence BC – a coalition of politicians, police, lawyers, doctors and academics – argue a regulated and taxed marijuana market could cut money flowing into organized crime and inhibit growth of illegal grow-ops around the province.

Dr. Evan Wood, founder of the Stop the Violence BC coalition, said the trial would fit under an exemption in the federal drug law — the same exemption that Insite, a supervised drug injection site in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, already operates under.

“This would be something that is fully compliant with the international treaties that Canada is signatory to and fully compliant to our federal drug laws,” Wood said.

Wood said B.C. politicians have hid behind the argument that marijuana is a federally controlled substance and criminal law falls under federal jurisdiction.

But B.C. Attorney General Shirley Bond is waiting for the feds to make the first move.

“We’ve said clearly that any significant change to how we manage this from a law enforcement perspective in British Columbia needs to be lead by the federal government.”

Former B.C. attorney general Geoff Plant, a vocal supporter of marijuana legalization and taxation, is optimistic to hear about Bond’s warm reception.

“You would be hard pressed to find a better example of a law whose unintended consequences are more perniciously contrary to its intended effect than this one,” he said, adding that cannabis prohibition has provided “the economic incentive for an enormous underground economy and routinely kills people on our streets.”

There’s also a monetary incentive for the province to loosen up its pot laws for market regulation.

Marijuana convictions cost taxpayers approximately $8,750 each, according to a study commissioned by Sensible B.C. – a non-profit group working to decriminalize simple pot possession.

Last year, 1,200 convictions were laid in connection to marijuana possession, costing B.C. taxpayers about $10.5 million dollars.

With files from The Canadian Press

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