VANCOUVER - Four former B.C. attorneys general are calling for the legalization of marijuana, saying the current ban on pot is only fuelling gang violence and clogging the courts, but they're not getting any support from the province's current premier.
The four men, Colin Gabelmann, Ujjal Dosanjh, Graeme Bowbrick and Geoff Plant, who served in both NDP and Liberal governments in B.C., have written to Premier Christy Clark and NDP leader Adrian Dix encouraging them to work to overturn the prohibition of marijuana
They say the ban results in massive profits for organized crime, widespread gang violence, reduced community safety and escalating costs to taxpayers. They say instead of prohibition, governments should regulate the sale of marijuana as a public health issue and tax the sales, which would raise money for cash-strapped governments.
"It’s time for our political leaders to accept and act on the overwhelming evidence linking marijuana prohibition to organized crime and gang violence," said Geoff Plant, who served as attorney general from 2001 to 2005.
"Punitive laws such as mandatory minimum sentences are clearly not the solution. Instead, taxation and regulation under a public health framework is the best way forward," he said in the letter.
"Alcohol prohibition did not work in the 1920's and 1930's and marijuana prohibition does not work today," said Gabelmann, who was attorney general from 1991 to 1995. "It’s past time we overturned prohibition and addressed the related problems of gang violence, clogged court systems and the constant drain on the public purse."
However, Premier Christy Clark said she will not get involved in the marijuana debate.
"As a premier, I respect that former attorneys general have taken this stand, people who are outside of politics. But as a premier I'm going to leave this to the federal government," she said.
The letter by the attorneys general follows a report issued last December by a group called Stop the Violence BC, which also called for the legalization of pot.
The coalition of health, academic and justice experts said marijuana use is thriving, despite the millions of dollars that have been spent by police in Canada and the U.S. to control it.
"If the goal is to reduce the availability of marijuana, it's clearly been a dramatic failure,'' said Dr. Evan Wood, a founding member of the coalition and director at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV-AIDS.
The coalition said new federal laws that include mandatory minimum sentences for pot possession are pushing policy in the wrong direction, when the government should be regulating and taxing cannabis under a comprehensive public health framework.