VICTORIA -- It was by no means unanimous, but the Union of B.C. Municipalities is pushing ahead with its efforts to lobby the federal government to decriminalize marijuana.
The group voted on the proposal put forward by the District of Metchosin council during its annual convention in Victoria Wednesday morning.
"Prohibition is a failed policy. It was a failed policy with alcohol," said district Coun. Moralea Milne during her introduction of the resolution.
The debate over the proposal went back and forth for nearly 20 minutes before a vote was called.
Proponents cited a potential revenue stream governments were missing out on while those in opposition decried the effect decriminalization would have young people and its lack of effect on organized crime.
"I think this resolution is thinly disguised attempt to take an important issue of principle and make it all about money," said Tom Siddon, a director with the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen. "As a teacher, a school trustee formerly and a parent and grandparent of 10, I worry about where we're leading our nation in the values we set as elected politicians. I think we've been frying too many brains."
Prince George Coun. Brian Skakun voted and spoke in favour of the resolution, calling it a revenue issue as well as a way to ease the backlog in the court systems.
"I think it's about being progressive. I'm not going to judge someone on whether or not they smoke pot," he said. "I mean, I tried it when I was younger. I turned out okay."
Based on police information, B.C. is responsible for 40 per cent of the marijuana produced in Canada and 80 to 95 per cent of that is exported illegally to the United States. Marijuana growth is also estimated to be a $7 billion business in the province, annually.
The last time the federal government attempted to relax the rules on the possession of cannabis was under the Paul Martin Liberals in 2004. Possession of 15 grams or less would only have been punishable by a fine.
In 2009, the minority Conservative government brought forward legislation introducing mandatory minimum sentencing for cannabis trafficking, which died on the House of Commons floor when Parliament was dissolved.