Right now the RCMP lay about 60,000 charges annually for marijuana possession across Canada, while they let about four times as many people found with pot off with a warning. When the police talk about tickets for possession, they're not talking about reducing the number of charges, they're talking about finding a more efficient way to punish the hundreds of thousands of people they're currently letting go.
We've written a law, called the Sensible Policing Act, which has already been approved by Elections BC. This law will make a first step towards legalization, by stopping arrests for marijuana possession, and focusing police resources on fighting real crime. This campaign does not rely on the whims of politicians. We can do this ourselves, with people power. But it isn't easy to get on the ballot so that we can have a marijuana referendum. We will need to collect over half a million signatures, from registered voters all across B.C., just like they did to stop the HST.
The RCMP have been focusing more on small-time marijuana arrests since Stephen Harper became Prime Minister. RCMP arrests for marijuana possession are up 40% across Canada, and have more than doubled in B.C. Also increasing in frequency are the raids and harassment of bong shops. This trend will continue, unless we put a stop to it. We need one of these store owners to stand up to the police, to go to court and challenge the foundation of this unconstitutional law.
Although we can all agree that marijuana prohibition has failed, there is not full agreement on how exactly to legalize and regulate it. We still have to answer some important questions. Should people be allowed to grow their own marijuana? If so, how much? Should marijuana be sold in stores? What kinds of taxes should there be? Should there be taxes on medical marijuana products? What about extracts and foods? What is the best age limit? Before we can put a legalized system in place, we need to have the answers to these kinds of questions.
Did you know that B.C. can decriminalize marijuana? Indeed, any Canadian province could decriminalize marijuana possession at any time. Provinces have all kinds of legal options when it comes to dealing with possession of marijuana. We know what the RCMP's preferred option is: more arrests and more charges for marijuana possession. The RCMP have increased marijuana possession charges across Canada by about 30 per cent since Harper came to power. In B.C. the increase has been the greatest: there was a 211 per cent increase in pot possession charges between 2005 and 2011.
He may not know it yet, but Adrian Dix will be the Premier who presides over the decriminalization and then legalization of marijuana in BC. The reason I know this is because of the 420 Code. Although Dix isn't particularly pro-pot, he does say he supports decriminalization. It's not an issue he feels comfortable talking about and usually he takes the easy route and passes the buck to the federal government.