Opinion Column

THE DUEL: Going pro-pot better than not


In The Duel, 24 hours columnists David Eby and Kathryn Marshall battle over the issues of the day. Who's the winner this week? Fire us an email at van24feedback @sunmedia.ca.

The pot prohibition debate: To legalize it or not to legalize it?

If John McKay understands that the pot prohibition is enriching violent criminal gangs, facilitating cocaine trafficking in Canada and making it easier for school kids to buy the drug easily, perhaps, Kathryn, it's time for you to have another look at the issue, too.

McKay is the Republican former-U.S. Prosecutor who spent years battling the cross-border cannabis trade. He extradited Canada's "Pot King" Marc Emery to the United States to five years in jail.

Read Kathryn Marshall's column

Last week, McKay came to town to ask Canadians to consider taxation and regulation of cannabis as a strategy to protect young people and to cut off a significant source of revenue for violent criminal organizations.

"Marijuana prohibition in British Columbia and Washington State has fuelled a massive illegal industry that is profitable, exceptionally violent, and a proven threat to public safety and security on both sides of the border," said McKay.

He was in town to support the proposal from B.C.'s Stop the Violence campaign to replace the criminal prohibition on marijuana with a very strict regulatory regime. The proposal is to prohibit advertising; include health warnings, age restrictions and driving restrictions; and collect significant taxes to fund public programs. The plan is also supported by the Health Officers Council, a group of public health experts whose only goal is to promote the public health of British Columbians.

Money would be redirected from violent gangs to drug treatment and prevention programs. Removing the distribution of cannabis from organized crime would reduce access to the drug for children in our schools.

Former Liberal Attorney General Geoff Plant wants reform: "Cannabis prohibition is ineffective, expensive and, without question, contributes to the growth of organized crime. Widespread gang violence, easy access to illegal cannabis, significant costs to taxpayers and cross-border organized crime concerns all result from our failed approach to drug policy."

The Economist Magazine echoed the sentiment: "Prohibition has failed; legalization is the least bad solution".

And former-city councillor Peter Ladner: "The current economic crisis adds financial punch to the already-strong arguments for ending this harmful charade and spending our scarce public dollars on creating benefits, not breeding crime."

But it's not just conservative prosecutors, politicians and magazines driving this issue. According to pollster Angus Reid, approximately 80% of British Columbians agree cannabis laws must be reformed. Let's stop funding violent criminals, and instead find the least bad solution for public health and safety.