Lot of talk lately about the herb.
You know-pot, weed, dope, ganja, grass.
Maybe you heard that a resolution went before the Union of B.C. Municipalities in Victoria Wednesday calling for the decriminalization of marijuana.
It passed, by the way. The Vancouver Island municipality of Metchosin introduced the resolution, but I wouldn't have been surprised if Vancouver had led the charge to tax and regulate Mary Jane.
For the record, Mayor Gregor Robertson and city council-and a whole bunch of municipalities, doctors and former B.C. attorney generals, including Liberal Geoff Plant and NDPer Ujjal Dosanjh- have publicly stated their support to decriminalize the weed.
They did this months ago. The consensus from the decriminalization crew is that taxing and regulating marijuana would put a dent in organized crime and improve public health and safety.
The debate on this issue comes as marijuana advocate Dana Larsen-he's the guy who ran unsuccessfully to lead the provincial NDP-has one-upped those on the decriminalize-the-dope train.
He's pulling a Bill Vander Zalm by using legislation-as smilin' Bill did to overturn the HST-in an attempt to have the cops stop harshing on marijuana users' vibe.
Elections B.C. says it has approved in principle an initiative filed by Larsen to amend the Police Act. If approved, the amendment would mean cops won't be able to hassle adults for simple possession and use of what former VPD police chief Jamie Graham called the "gateway drug."
Larsen calls his proposed bill the "sensible policing act." He also wants the provincial government to request the feds repeal the federal prohibition on cannabis, or give B.C. an exemption so that it can tax and regulate the herb like it does booze.
Of course, Larsen has work to do to get this done.
The way it works is that Elections B.C. will issue a petition Nov.19 and give Larsen and his band of weed warriors 90 days to collect the signatures of more than 10 per cent of registered voters in each of B.C.'s 85 electoral districts.
But Larsen reportedly says he will use the publicity of the initiative to mobilize signature gatherers and submit another application in. September 2013? (I could make a joke here about my experience with acquaintances of the 420 crowd and their inability to be prompt but that, dude, would just get me in trouble).
Anyway, I wondered what the VPD was up to when it comes to arresting people for marijuana. According to the department's 2011 annual report, there were 1,334 Criminal Code offences for mari-juana in 2011-a decrease of 138 from 2010.
The stats aren't broken down so I can't figure out what offences were for trafficking or possession or how many were related to grow-ops.
I'm pretty sure though that not many, if any, of the offences were related to the annual smoke-ins outside the Vancouver Art Gallery every April 20. That's when the cops stand around watching hundreds of people get stoned in protest of the country's drug laws. The fact is the Crown doesn't get too excited about prosecuting people for simple possession.
Grow-ops, in my experience, are a different story. I once covered a case in Richmond where a firsttime offender got a jail sentence- it was either three or six months, can't remember-for 250 plants.
Yes, I realize there are people who use marijuana or grow it for medicinal purposes. But that's another debate for another time.
Be interesting to see how much weight the UBCM resolution carries at senior levels of government and what kind of response Larsen gets in his campaign.
But it would be even more interesting if a sitting premier, prime minister, attorney general or health minister got on the decriminalize the-dope train before they retired from office.