Reefer mad­ness clouds UBCM

The Prince George Citizen - - Opinion - — Ed­i­tor-in-chief Neil Godbout

Based on com­ments com­ing out of the Union of B.C. Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties con­fer­ence in Whistler this week, lo­cal gov­ern­ments can’t wait for mar­i­juana to be le­gal in less than five weeks as an ex­cuse to raise taxes. “Le­gal­iza­tion will cost money mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties don’t have,” Fed­er­a­tion of Cana­dian Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties pres­i­dent Clark Somerville told del­e­gates, in­clud­ing Mayor Lyn Hall and most of Prince Ge­orge city coun­cil. “Make sure you are push­ing for a fair lo­cal share.”

Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties are eye­ing get­ting $50 mil­lion of a pro­posed 10 per cent pro­vin­cial sales tax on pot sales ex­pected to raise $125 mil­lion in the first two years of le­gal­iza­tion.

Lo­cal politi­cians, bu­reau­crats and RCMP brass are all talk­ing about in­creased costs of polic­ing, by­law en­force­ment, li­cens­ing and land use and zone changes. Eric Stubbs, the for­mer su­per­in­ten­dent in Prince Ge­orge and now as­sis­tant com­mis­sioner with the RCMP, said le­gal­iza­tion will cre­ate more work, not less.

As any Crown coun­sel or de­fence lawyer would re­ply to the earnest po­lice of­fi­cer, where’s the ev­i­dence?

Where’s the ev­i­dence traf­fic cops will be pulling over more peo­ple driv­ing while stoned than they al­ready are? Where’s the ev­i­dence mar­i­juana use will in­crease in Canada af­ter le­gal­iza­tion?

If any­thing, le­gal­iza­tion could save the RCMP a sig­nif­i­cant amount of money and time each year. Of­fi­cers will no longer be con­cerned with re­cre­ational cannabis use, un­less it’s be­hind the wheel. Fur­ther­more, le­git pot pro­duc­tion and sales will sever a sig­nif­i­cant rev­enue stream for or­ga­nized crime out­fits, an­other gain for po­lice forces.

Per­haps Stubbs has also for­got­ten that as late as 2013, the As­so­ci­a­tion of Cana­dian Po­lice Chiefs was call­ing on the fed­eral govern­ment to de­crim­i­nal­ize mar­i­juana be­cause of the huge time and fi­nan­cial costs to po­lice to en­force the cur­rent pot laws.

Like the cops, lo­cal politi­cians and bu­reau­crats seem to be ig­nor­ing the ben­e­fits of cannabis le­gal­iza­tion, with new smal­land medium-sized busi­nesses open­ing their doors, ob­tain­ing busi­ness li­cences, pay­ing taxes, creat­ing jobs and grow­ing the econ­omy.

The “sky is fall­ing” fear­mon­ger­ing from lo­cal gov­ern­ments and the RCMP looks like a cyn­i­cal plea for more money and an­other ex­cuse to raise taxes. Un­der calm scru­tiny, the reefer mad­ness ra­tio­nal goes up in smoke.

Worst of all, this re­sponse might be try­ing to stran­gle the goose lay­ing the golden egg.

The whole point of mar­i­juana le­gal­iza­tion was to take a black mar­ket ac­tiv­ity where mil­lions of oth­er­wise law-abid­ing Cana­di­ans hand over bil­lions of dol­lars each year to gangs and di­vert that money into the le­gal econ­omy, with gov­ern­ments en­joy­ing a hand­some new rev­enue stream. There’s money for gov­ern­ments to rake in from peo­ple’s vices, which is why gam­bling and the sale of cig­a­rettes and al­co­hol are le­gal and sales are heav­ily taxed and care­fully mon­i­tored.

Pot will be no dif­fer­ent.

Pa­cific Western Brew­ing, North­ern Lights Es­tate Win­ery, Crossroads Brew­ing, Trea­sure Cove Casino and Trench Brew­ing are just some of the suc­cess­ful Prince Ge­orge busi­nesses that em­ploy hun­dreds of lo­cal res­i­dents and pump hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars each year into the lo­cal econ­omy through the pro­duc­tion and sales of prod­ucts and ser­vices that were once pro­hib­ited.

The sooner the City of Prince Ge­orge starts see­ing mar­i­juana le­gal­iza­tion as a busi­ness op­por­tu­nity, the bet­ter.

Start­ing on Oct. 21, the day af­ter the up­com­ing mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion, mayor and coun­cil must show lead­er­ship on this file and give real di­rec­tion to the plan­ning and by­law de­part­ments. The time for study and plan­ning and fret­ting about change is over.

To put it an­other way: dude, chill. It’ll be fine.

Like the cops, lo­cal politi­cians and bu­reau­crats seem to be ig­nor­ing the ben­e­fits of cannabis le­gal­iza­tion...

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