Robertson joins calls for end to pot prohibition

Recently re-elected Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson has joined four of his predecessors who recently came forward with a call to revise Canada’s marijuana laws. The mayors – Mike Harcourt, Philip Owen, Larry Campbell and Sam Sullivan – signed an open letter this week asking “all elected leaders in British Columbia to speak out about the ineffectiveness and harms of cannabis prohibition.” On Thursday night, less than a week after Robertson’s sweeping civic election victory that saw every candidate on his Vision Vancouver slate elected, the current mayor sent a Tweet supporting the bold move. “Good to see 4 Vancouver ex-mayors calling for end of cannabis prohibition. I agree, we need to be smart and tax/regulate,” he wrote. Robertson did not indicate he had lent his support to the Stop the Violence BC coaltion, a group made up of health care professionals, academics and police, which released the former mayors’ letter.

The letter blames Canadian laws for driving a massive criminal market, citing a Fraser Institute study that estimates the annual value of B.C.’s marijuana trade at as much as $7 billion. Instead, the mayors argue the drug could be raising millions in tax revenue for the province when it needs it most. B.C.’s “Prince of Pot,” Marc Emery, who is currently serving a five year prison sentence in the U.S. for selling marijuana seeds to Americans, called the letter only mildly encouraging. “It’s hopeful that four former mayors have made crystal clear the urgency and necessity of ending prohibition,” Emery wrote in a statement to CTV News. “It remains disturbing that virtually no politician currently in elected office at any level advocates this.” Emery and the mayors argue politicians are falling out of step with the Canadian electorate on the issue of cannabis, an assertion backed up by a growing number of polls and surveys. An Angus Reid survey released last month found 69 per cent of respondents in favour of taxing and regulation pot over chasing down growers and sellers.

Only 39 per cent supported minimum prison sentences for marijuana-related crime, and a mere 12 per cent said they were in favour of maintaining Canada’s current pot laws. But Sullivan, who held Vancouver’s top office from 2005 to 2008, said it’s more complicated supporting marijuana legalization as an elected official. “When you’re in office you have a lot people depending on you, and they don’t want you to say controversial things,” Sullivan said. By now, however, the mayors’ support may be moot. Marijuana laws remain under federal jurisdiction, and softening them isn’t on the agenda for Stephen Harper’s Conservative majority. To the contrary, the government’s pending omnibus crime bill would toughen drug laws, increasing minimum or maximum prison sentences for various crimes. The jail term for marijuana production would double from seven years to 14.
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