Former B.C. attorneys general add voices to Stop the Violence B.C. campaign

Four of the province's former attorneys general want marijuana legalized to curb gang activity associated with the illegal drug trade.

New Westminster's Graeme Bowbrick, along with Colin Gabelmann, Ujjal Dosanjh, and Geoff Plant, signed an open letter on the issue, addressed to Premier Christy Clark and B.C. New Democrat leader Adrian Dix.

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The letter was posted on the Stop the Violence B.C. coalition's website on Tuesday.

The letter from the attorneys general endorsed the coalition and urged the politicians to endorse legalizing, regulating and taxing pot.

"The case demonstrating the failure and harms of marijuana prohibition is airtight," the letter stated. "The evidence? Massive profits for organized crime, widespread gang violence, easy access to illegal cannabis for our youth, reduced community safety, and significant - and escalating - costs to taxpayers."

The criminal justice system is overburdened, and needs to focus on its resources on serious crime, Neil Boyd, a professor with Simon Fraser University's school of criminology, said in a STV B.C. press release.

"Politicians should be looking at every responsible means to improve the effectiveness of the criminal justice system and undermine organized crime," Boyd said. "Marijuana laws are not only ineffective, but are also a key driver of gang violence in communities throughout B.C."

The attorneys general released the letter following a number of public shootings in Vancouver and Surrey during the past month, which police have indicated are likely gang-related.

The most high profile of these was the shooting death of Sandip Duhre at the Wall Centre Hotel in Vancouver on Jan. 17.

The letter asks that the provincial politicians encourage the federal government to get rid of minimum sentences for minor and non-violent marijuana-related offences, and focus on taxing and regulating marijuana to "protect community health and safety while at the same time undermining gang profits.

As well as endorsing the STV B.C. coalition - composed of academics, current and former police officers, doctors and others who see a link between marijuana prohibition and gang violence - the attorneys general pointed out that B.C.'s Health Officers Council and the Fraser Institute both support the taxation and regulation of marijuana.

The letter also mentioned a recent Angus Reid poll, commissioned by the coalition, that found that 77 per cent of British Columbians did not agree that marijuana possession should be a criminal offence, and that 78 per cent said they were dissatisfied with the way politicians at the provincial level responded to problems stemming from the illegal marijuana industry.

"Laws that more aggressively enforce prohibition are obviously not the solution," Graeme Bowbrick, attorney general from 2000 to 2001, said in the release. "It's time for our politicians to listen to their constituents and reconsider our failed approach to cannabis policy."

The attorneys general are not the only public and political figures calling for an end to marijuana prohibition.

Last month, the federal Liberal Party voted in favour of marijuana legalization, and last fall, four former Vancouver mayors also endorsed an end to prohibition.

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan told the NOW last fall that he could not endorse the legalization of marijuana in an official capacity, but said on a personal level he thought the government should end the prohibition on pot.

"It's caused a great deal of problems in society and I do think we need to find some kind of solution to decriminalizing marijuana," he said.

For the entire open letter from the attorneys general, go to: stoptheviolencebc.org/2012/02/07/former-attorneys-general-endorse-stop-the-violence-bc.

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