09/21/2015 14:07 EDT | Updated 09/21/2016 01:12 EDT

B.C. could legalize marijuana, says former U.S. prosecutor

B.C. could legalize marijuana on its own without federal approval, believes a former prosecutor that helped legalize pot south of the border in 2012. 

Marijuana falls under federal jurisdiction in Canada, but with some creativity local politicians can push from the bottom up for change, says Tonia Winchester the former deputy campaign director for Yes on I-502.

"I think it's possible for something like that to happen in B.C. But I think it will take a lot of creativity and courage on the local level to really stand-up and say our communities are ready for something different and I think B.C. is really poised to do that," she said. 

Winchester is speaking at the Union of B.C. Municipalities annual general meeting on the role cities need to play when it comes to legalizing pot and the lessons they can take away from Washington state. 

"I think it's challenging as a politician to step out and be pro-marijuana. Because people think if you are pro-marijuana, you are pro the use of marijuana. But what we are really talking about is what is the best policy for our community," she explained.

Regulating and taxing marijuana is about taking money out of the hands of cartels, freeing up law enforcement to work on other matters and investing in drug treatment and education, she said.

"I think really B.C. and the politicians here are poised to have that same conversation. What can we do that is better for communities than putting more people behind bars," she said.  

To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled Marijuana legalization talk at the UBCM AGM with the CBC's Rick Cluff on The Early Edition.