How might legal marijuana in Wash. impact B.C.?
Andrew Weichel, CTV British Columbia
Published Monday, November 5, 2012 4:59PM PST
Last Updated Monday, November 5, 2012 8:28PM PST
Washington State voters are expected to make marijuana history Tuesday by legalizing the recreational use of the drug – but what would the move mean for bud-friendly B.C.?
According to a recent poll, 55 per cent of Washington voters support Initiative 502, a measure that would see pot regulated, taxed and sold in stores, compared to just 32 per cent who oppose it.
Canadian marijuana advocates say they’ll be watching the referendum results with bated breath, in hopes that legalization in the U.S. could spark a sea change at home towards overturning the prohibition laws they blame for brutal, costly gang wars and other crime.
“We used to say we can’t legalize it, America won’t let us,” said pot activist Jodie Emery. “Now that they’re changing their laws we can say hey, you realize that your drug war was a failed approach, we don’t want to go down that failed path of waste and destruction.”
And Emery, who is married to Marc Emery, the self-proclaimed “Prince of Pot,” said the potential passage of I502 couldn’t come at a better time.
“This month, the Harper government’s mandatory minimum [sentences] for pot have come into effect all across Canada, which demonstrates that we’re going the wrong way and the U.S. is going the right way,” she said.
“We want to follow the U.S. example of making more progressive laws, keeping people out of prisons, taking money away from gangs, making everyone safer. That’s the approach we need.”
I502 would put marijuana under the purview of Washington’s liquor control board, and allow anyone aged 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of the dried form of the drug. It would also impose a 25 per cent tax on marijuana sales, with revenue going directly to programs like education, health care, research and substance-abuse prevention.
BC Liberal MLA and former solicitor general Kash Heed said it’s just the kind of approach that would benefit his constituents.
“It’s a very contemporary policy around how we regulate and legalize marijuana in Washington. It’s something we can learn from,” Heed said.
Even if B.C. doesn’t follow in Washington’s footsteps, legalization in the U.S. could still deliver a blow to the province’s drug lords, Heed said.
“You will see the proceeds that criminal organizations are making here in B.C. by delivering the product to Washington State decrease substantially because they will no longer be able to reach the black market,” he said. “In fact, [they will] have eliminated the black market.”
Two other states, Oregon and Colorado, will also have marijuana referendums on the ballots during Tuesday’s presidential election, but the issue appears to have gained less traction there than in the Evergreen State bordering B.C.
If I502 passes, specialized pot stores wouldn’t open up for about a year, and users wouldn’t be allowed to light up outdoors once they do – but vacationing visitors, including British Columbians, would be welcome to purchase the drug.
With a report from CTV British Columbia’s St. John Alexander