File photo from a marijuana grow-op.

Eight mayors echo call for marijuana reform

Surrey's Dianne Watts won't join coalition pushing pot legalization

Eight B.C. mayors have joined a coordinated campaign to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana to combat gang violence and other drug-related crime.

Three of the mayors are from the Lower Mainland – Vancouver’s Gregor Robertson, Burnaby’s Derek Corrigan and North Vancouver City’s Darrell Mussatto – while the other cities represented are Vernon, Armstrong, Enderby, Lake Country and the District of Metchosin.

“It is time to tax and strictly regulate marijuana under a public health framework,” the mayors said in a letter distributed Thursday by the Stop The Violence BC campaign.

“Regulating marijuana would allow the government to rationally address the health concerns of marijuana, raise government tax revenue and eliminate the huge profits from the marijuana industry that flow directly to organized crime.”

The letter was addressed to Premier Christy Clark, NDP leader Adrian Dix and BC Conservative leader John Cummins.

It notes pot is more readily available to youth than tobacco, while smoking rates have been cut through public health regulation, not prohibition.

The mayors also express concern that their cities will face higher policing costs due to “inflexible” federal policies like mandatory minimum sentences for drug offences.

A spokesperson for Stop The Violence BC said mayors of other cities may be considering taking a stand on the issue, but was unable to provide specifics.

“I don’t think it necessarily reflects a lack of support,” Evan Wood said.

Several city councils have also passed supportive motions.

But Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts said she won’t be endorsing marijuana reform.

“The drug dealers are targeting our kids and we are a city with the most kids in the province,” Watts said. “So for me, it’s not a road I want to walk down.”

She said the debate over decriminalization is a matter of federal jurisdiction.

Watts also said marijuana reform wouldn’t stop the underground market in other drugs.

“I don’t think people are willing to go down the road of legalizing every single drug, including synthetic drugs. That would be absurd.”

The Stop the Violence BC coalition has previously released endorsements from various academic, legal, law enforcement and health experts.

B.C.’s chief medical health officer Dr. Perry Kendall was one of the latest to endorse a health-based approach to marijuana policy.

In February, four former B.C. attorneys-general also backed pot legalization.

Premier Clark has deferred the issue of marijuana policy reform to the federal government.

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