Grand Forks city council has decided not to support the Stop the Violence BC campaign, which is in favour of the strict regulation and taxation of cannabis.
At an Aug. 20 city council meeting, council voted five to two in favour of not supporting the campaign, with Councillors Michael Wirischagin, Neil Krog, Cher Wyers, Gary Smith and Patrick O’Doherty voting against and Mayor Brian Taylor and Coun. Bob Kendel for.
A letter from Stop the Violence BC founder Dr. Evan Wood noted, “Marijuana prohibition has made our communities less safe. In an unregulated market, organized crime has taken over the production, distribution and marketing of marijuana.”
The letter is asking for support from government parties and leaders and for them to consider how prohibition contributes to the violence.
Mayor Brian Taylor brought forward the letter that contained information from eight mayors of municipalities from B.C. supporting the campaign.
At the moment, it’s also an issue of money and safety, more so than it is a moral issue at this point, the mayor pointed out.
“Clearly people are concerned with organized crime and organized criminal growers are moving out of the Lower Mainland and into the rural areas of British Columbia, which is a concern for the people Grand Forks,” Taylor said. “We do have medical marijuana here and we have a program that allows people to access medical marijuana.”
Krog said he made the motion to not support the campaign after he looked at various websites and information.
“Who wouldn’t want to stop the violence? To speak against it makes you sound really bad,” he said. “But the reality is that after all the stuff I’ve looked at, it won’t stop the violence. There are some individuals who have stepped forward and put their names publicly saying they would support it, but there are a lot of people who don’t agree with it.”
Though Krog believes more discussion is needed, ultimately he would not support the campaign. Wyers agreed with Krog.
“It goes way back to prohibition and alcohol. Today, what do we see? Millions and billions of dollars spent across the country and the world on breathalyzers, stopping and getting people off the road from drinking, fetal alcohol syndrome in babies, broken families, (Alcoholics Anonymous), and on and on it goes,” Wyers said. “So did we win with alcohol? No. Today I strongly feel that the answer is not in legalizing marijuana. Medical marijuana has already been legalized, and that issue has to be addressed with Health Canada to make it accessible.”
O’Doherty pointed out that he was not a supporter of legalizing marijuana as well.
Residents who attended the meeting were upset by the verdict.
“The more taboo it is, the harsher the laws, the more the profit,” said Les Johnson. “The more you squeeze that pipeline, the more money they will make off it and the more they’ll fight over the money.”
Sandra Mark, a social worker and who recently moved to Grand Forks, was also disappointed with council’s decision.
“I’ve worked with street folks and street kids in four or five cities and I’ve seen the impact of our current system to people who are very vulnerable in our society,” she explained. “I think we have a huge social problem and the fact that we think we should solve our social problems with prisons and through the justice system is part of the problem. We need to think much more broadly with what’s going on.”
Mark noted that 30 years ago, there were questions
indicating these issues should be dealt as health and social issues, not as criminal issues.
Grand Forks RCMP Staff Sgt. Jim Harrison, who was not at the meeting, is cautious with the program.
“I have some deep concerns because I don’t think it’s as simple an issue as people make it out to be,” he said. “Marijuana is as big an issue as it is to every other community, and it’s a serious issue in that the inroads created into our community for organized crime because off the marijuana industry is huge and that’s where my deepest concerns lie.”
Harrison noted that on a priority basis, however, Grand Forks RCMP is more concerned with the issues of methamphetamine.
“Everything has to be dealt with in a priority order with the resources that we have and we put a much higher priority to methamphetamine dealers and the damage that they do to our communities as far as our crime rate goes,” said Harrison. “There are definite links to methamphetamine to violent crime to property crime to crimes such as threats, which are occurring. It’s not so much the marijuana industry at this point.
“Is (this campaign) going to solve all our problems with organized crime? Is it going to solve all the problems of violence in the industry? I don’t know,” Harrison said.