Marijuana legalization could benefit B.C. economy

Published in 24 Hours Vancouver |August 22, 2013 | Circulation: 251,700

 

British Columbia’s marijuana production prominence could have a dramatic impact on the provincial economy if laws regarding the drug are changed, a local criminologist argues.

With the country’s police chiefs now pushing to ticket simple marijuana possession, Rob Gordon, director of Simon Fraser University’s criminology program, said with drug’s legalization in Washington state this could lead to northbound smuggling and a major shift in organized crime.

“It’s considered to be a major portion of the B.C. economy,” Gordon said of the province’s marijuana production. “How it’s measured is subject to some dispute, but nevertheless it’s a pretty good snapshot to suggest the industry is huge.”

A Fraser Institute study from 2004 suggests the pot industry is worth more than $7 billion annually to the province, making it B.C.’s third biggest economic engine after forestry and tourism.

On Wednesday, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police announced its members want to issue tickets for possession of 30 grams and under.

“Our proposal would save money to the justice system, save time for police officers, but also for the courts who arguably have other, more serious matters to deal with,” said Vancouver Police chief Jim Chu, also head of the CACP. He added the body supports neither legalization or decriminalization.

“What we’d like is an additional tool for front-line officers when an illegal behaviour occurs.”

That argument, Sensible B.C. director Dana Larsen said, is flawed.

“I’m totally opposed to that,” he told 24 hours. “It’s just an attempt by police to find alternative ways of punishment.

“Over three-quarters of police incidents dealing with possession result in a warning and the confiscation of marijuana … Now you’d see tens of thousands of fines handed out each year. It’s not a solution to the marijuana issue.”

Gordon praised police, saying the announcement marks the “beginning of the end” for criminalization – and ultimately gain control over the trade.

“The criminal side of it is the constant pulse running through all of this,” he said. “Most of what we’ve seen over last two decades in B.C. and the Lower Mainland is the consequence of that system of prohibition.”

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