Advocates of the proposed Sensible Policing Act say it would appropriately restrict youth possession of marijuana.

Advocates of the proposed Sensible Policing Act say it would appropriately restrict youth possession of marijuana.

Sensible steps to police drug use

Editor:

Re: B.C. marijuana referendum misguided, Oct. 8.

Editor:

Re: B.C. marijuana referendum misguided, Oct. 8.

Tom Fletcher’s recent column misrepresented the Sensible BC campaign, and could lead to confusion about our efforts for a marijuana referendum.

The ultimate aim of Sensible BC is to have B.C.’s marijuana industry regulated in a similar manner to wine. Our proposed legislation, the Sensible Policing Act, is designed to bring us closer to that goal.

The Sensible Policing Act has four components, all carefully designed to be within provincial jurisdiction.

The first aspect is to redirect police resources away from being wasted on simple possession of marijuana. Last year, B.C. police made over 16,500 arrests for marijuana possession, draining $10.5 million in police and court time away from investigation of more serious criminal offences. If Sensible BC is successful, tens of thousands of hours of police and court time would immediately be freed up to pursue real criminals. This means safer communities for everyone, and less backlog in our courts.

Second, our legislation treats a minor in possession of marijuana exactly the same as if it were alcohol. This allows police to deal with a teenager smoking pot, but without the lifetime criminal record.

Third, the Sensible Policing Act calls upon the federal government to repeal marijuana prohibition, so that B.C. can regulate and tax it in a manner similar to wine and beer. This would send a powerful message and give our prime minister the mandate to legalize.

Finally, our legislation creates a B.C. commission to figure out the rules needed to implement legalization. Like alcohol and tobacco, most of the regulation for marijuana would be determined at the provincial level.

B.C. cannot fully legalize marijuana without a change to federal law, but we can take steps in the right direction.

Dana Larsen, Sensible BC

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There is a big difference between condoning marijuana use and protecting children from drugs.

Decriminalization – as proposed by Sensible BC – acknowledges the social reality of marijuana and frees users from criminal records. That’s a step in the right direction. What’s really needed is a legally regulated market with age controls.

Separating the hard and soft drug markets is critical. As long as organized crime controls marijuana distribution, consumers will come into contact with sellers of hard drugs like cocaine, meth and heroin. This “gateway” is a direct result of marijuana prohibition.

Marijuana is less harmful than legal alcohol. The plant has never been shown to cause an overdose death. It makes no sense to waste tax dollars on failed marijuana policies that finance organized crime and facilitate the use of hard drugs. Taxing and regulating marijuana may send the wrong message to children, but I like to think the children are more important than the message.

Robert Sharpe, Common Sense for Drug Policy, Washington, D.C.