Top cops avoid sides in pot debate

B.C.'s top cops did not take sides in the debate over re-regulating marijuana. Both Minister of Justice Shirley Bond and RCMP Assistant Commissioner Craig Callens said they recognized the debate has plenty to consider, but neither added thoughts of their own.

"The ideas are, in my view, political decisions," Callens told The Citizen. "I don't seek to avoid your question, but honestly I think it is an interesting and valuable debate to have and the citizen of B.C. do not expect me to engage in that debate. They expect me to focus on the policing priorities that we are collectively setting in the communities we serve."

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Likewise, Bond responded that calls from four of her former counterparts - past Attorneys General from both sides of the political fence - were messages to Ottawa, not to her.

"Whether the decriminalization of marijuana is an appropriate strategy from a public health versus law and order perspective has been the subject of long and public debate," she said.

"However, it is not my intention to speculate on decriminalization of illicit drugs when provinces do not have authority over federal legislation. Drug regulation is the jurisdiction of the federal government, which has responsibility for public prosecutions of marijuana offences under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, and it is most appropriate that they be the ones to respond to this debate."

Callens said the issue "doesn't alarm me" from a law enforcement point of view.

"I view drug addiction as a public health challenge. We will be successful over the long term by addressing drug abuse as a crime driver when stakeholders involved in health and education realize some success in reducing the demand. That is really the key to our future success."

His one warning within the current debate about B.C.'s organized crime monopoly on marijuana is that the buying of that marijuana is done little by British Columbians themselves, so the cash cow might still be flowing for gangs should the regulations be rewritten as the former Attorneys General suggest.

The gangs get their money from the sale of massive amounts of marijuana across provincial and American borders, not as much inside this province.

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