Emotions ran high Monday night as Nelson city council debated a resolution that asked the mayor to write a letter in support of the Stop the Violence BC campaign.
“I believe it will have a negative impact on our community,” said Mayor John Dooley. “The domestic market is only supporting a small portion of organized crime. The drugs that are being grown in British Columbia are being sold to the United States in exchange for cocaine that is being brought back to be sold to the youth in this community and the children in our schoolyards. I sit on the police board, I see the evidence and I can not put this community in that position.”
Stop the Violence BC is a coalition of academics, past and present law enforcement members and the general public. Guided by scientific evidence this educational campaign is calling for “a strict regulatory framework aimed at limiting use while also starving organized crime of the profits they reap as a result of prohibition.”
Councillor Donna Macdonald introduced the issue to council late last month after receiving an email from a resident.
Before Macdonald could introduce her recommendation on Monday, Councillor Robin Cherbo brought forward his own which asked that the topic of regulation and taxation of marijuana be referred to the Union of BC Municipalities for analysis and research.
Cherbo stated that if council referred the issue to the Union of BC Municipalities, “Nelson would not be acting in isolation.”
Dooley said he would not sign a letter in support of the campaign and said he would “go to the wall” in opposition of it.
“This resolution should never have come forward in this manner,” said Dooley. “This is the wrong way to bring this forward.”
The resolution introduced by Cherbo was called into question and defeated when councillors Deb Kozak, Paula Kiss, Candace Batycki and Macdonald voted against.
Kozak, who voted in support of the original motion put forward by Macdonald, said she had interpreted the resolution differently than Dooley.
“When we talk about prohibition and we talk about stopping the violence, when alcohol was regulated it did stop a lot of the violence,” said Kozak. “The gang warfare over alcohol ended. There was discussion and people needed to introduce it to be discussed… I don’t believe it lessens the safety of our community. I can’t agree with you there.”
When the original motion introduced by Macdonald was called to question, Kiss, Batycki, Kozak and Macdonald voted in favour, while Dooley, Cherbo and Councillor Bob Adams voted against.
“The reason that we are in this position today with the violence, gang control and the special THC marijuana that we’re seeing out on the market today, is that prohibition brought us all these problems,” said Kiss in response to comments by Cherbo. “The problems are 100 per cent because of prohibition, so both of you [Cherbo and Dooley] have made a convincing case against prohibition. I am saying please let us be leaders in starting this discussion about coming up with a system that is better.”
Both Dooley and Cherbo said Nelson should not act on this issue in isolation.
“We’re not doing this in isolation,” said Kiss in response. “We’re being progressive leaders.”
Dooley said he is showing leadership as far as what the community wants.
“We are showing leadership. We’re saying we want the full information package to make an informed decision,” he said. “This is a decision promoted by one group. I’ve outlined for myself a number of questions. I can’t in good conscience support it without my concerns being addressed.”
Although eight mayors have signed letters in support of the Stop the Violence BC campaign, Dooley said all mayors would not sign the letter.
“At the end of the day they are the guys that call the shots,” said Dooley. “It’s not the police chief that is retired or Ujjal Dosanjh that is no longer running for politics or Larry Campbell that is now a senator living high off the hog in Ottawa, those guys have been down the road, they are not looking to be elected again. It’s the people in these chairs.”
Dooley mentioned that Holland has recently introduced legislation to address the country’s reputation for “drug tourism.”
“Their reputation has gone in the tank due to this,” said Dooley. “Is that what we want for our community? I don’t think so. And guess what, I’ll say this once again I’ll go to the wall on this… in three years, I’ll go to the wall. People have stood up at Central School before on that platform and they have been defeated.”
It was suggested by city manager Kevin Cormack that council amend the motion so that instead of having the mayor write a letter in support that the letter come from council.
Macdonald introduced a new motion at the end of the meeting that the original motion be deferred until the first meeting after the Union of BC Municipalities convention.
“We’re sort of at this ugly stalemate and if it would make people feel better to go to the UBCM and see what is said there, I’m happy to wait. I still support this resolution, but in the interest of good relations I’m happy to wait until after UBCM. As much as I would like us to show leadership, apparently that’s not going to happen.”
The motion was passed with Kiss, Batycki, Kozak and Macdonald voting in support. Dooley, Cherbo and Adams voted against.
The Union of BC Municipalities convention is scheduled for September 24 to 28.