‘No appetite to fight this fight,’ mayor says of pot reform

Bruce Banman of Abbotsford says will not support mayors' campaign to legalize marijuana.

  • May. 3, 2012 3:00 p.m.

by Jeff Nagel and Kevin Mills, Black Press

Eight B.C. mayors have joined a coordinated campaign to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana to combat gang violence and other drug-related crime. However, Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman is not among them.

“I was not invited. I don’t recall that memo going across my desk,” said Banman with a laugh.

None of the mayors involved is from the Fraser Valley. Three 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.”

Banman said he understands the theory, calling it the “prohibition argument,” but doesn’t necessarily agree with it.

He called it a highly controversial issue that should either go to the Supreme Court of Canada, or to a nation-wide referendum.

“In this particular community, that wouldn’t go very far if we were to say, ‘Hey, let’s legalize this tomorrow.’ I don’t think I’ll be putting my name on that list (of mayors) anytime soon.”

He said the Abbotsford community doesn’t have any “appetite to fight this fight.”

Abbotsford Coun. John Smith said the topic has never come up at council, at least not during his six-year run.

“It’s never even been discussed. It’s not on the agenda.”

While he hasn’t seen the letter sent by the eight B.C. mayors, Smith said he could not support the legalization of pot for any reason.

“I’m against smoking, let alone marijuana.”

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

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