VICTORIA — Local governments need to do more with regulation and bylaws to stop marijuana-related crimes, delegates to the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention were told Monday.
As well, an upcoming vote on a UBCM resolution to legalize pot isn’t needed, said Darryl Plecas, RCMP University Research Chair in Crime Reduction at the University of the Fraser Valley.
UBCM delegates vote Wednesday on a resolution calling on the “appropriate government to decriminalize marijuana and research the regulation and taxation” of the drug.
Plecas told a packed study session at the UBCM’s annual convention he would “stake his life” there would be no effect on illegal grow-ops if the federal government decriminalizes marijuana.
Plecas was one of five speakers arguing the pros and cons of supporting the resolution. He said issues with marijuana growers will remain unless municipalities take action.
“You need to start using your regulatory powers and bylaws to make it incredibly difficult for people to have these grow-ops,” he said, adding the lack of municipal regulation is a thorn in the side of law enforcement.
“It comes back to the failure of municipalities to do their part,” said Plecas.
But supporting the fight for decriminalization is taking action, said police officer David Bratzer.
“The federal and provincial governments are not going to take this first step,” said Bratzer, speaking on behalf of Stop the Violence BC – a coalition of law enforcement officials, legal experts and public health officials focused on the links between organized crime and pot prohibition.
He said a lack of legal means to solve disputes in the marijuana trade has led to police getting injured or killed, and creates a financial strain on police and municipal budgets.
“It’s a very polarizing issue,” said Kamloops Coun. Ken Christian. “It’s something civic government needs to look at.”
While the federal government has legalized medical marijuana, it’s been up to the municipalities to deal with the fallout as it occurs in their communities, noted Coun. Nancy Bepple.
That fallout includes things like a lack of inspectors for medical grow-ops and the buildings they take place in, she said.
“They’ve left it to the municipal sector to take on that role,” she said.
Without regulations or money for enforcement, it’s difficult for municipalities to do so, she said.
The issue will be debated Wednesday, and Bepple said it’s expected to be lively.
“A lot of people like myself want to see some change, but there is question about what that change should be. The violence around the drug trade is the big worry,” she said.
“I think there’s a desire to change it, but at end of the day, we can only make recommendations to the province.”
Coun. Marg Spina agreed with Bepple that the violence that surrounds drugs is a concern.
“What all agreed on (at the session) is the current system isn’t working and the violence is getting worse,” she said.
Spina said the audience was told 585,000 people in B.C. used marijuana last year, so it isn’t going to go away. Control over pot will be in the hands of the gangs, the government or the public, she said.
“We can’t arrest our way out of this.”