10/18/2012 10:50 EDT | Updated 12/18/2012 05:12 EST

MLA Kash Heed stokes pot debate to fire up politicians before election

VANCOUVER - A sitting member of the B.C. legislature and former long-time police officer has joined the growing grassroots campaign calling for the legalization of marijuana.

Liberal MLA Kash Heed, who has said he won't be seeking re-election, has joined the Stop the Violence campaign saying he believes continuing pot prohibition is futile.

He says his 31 years in law enforcement, including as West Vancouver police chief and a stint heading the Vancouver Police drug unit, brought him to believe criminalization fuels gang violence.

Former Attorney General Geoff Plant, who also endorses the campaign, says Heed has shown political courage by speaking out against what he feels are failed laws and is urging political leaders to base policy on evidence.

Heed says he'll use his remaining time in office to reach out to provincial leaders in an attempt to ensure discussions about more effective public health and safety strategies become part of the debate before the May election.

Last month, the Union of B.C. Municipalities passed a resolution calling for the decriminalization of cannabis.