The most dramatic debate around the Nelson council table this year? Transit? Housing? Taxes? Nope

Year in Review No. 4: When THC hits the fan

The idea of decriminalizing marijuana in BC unleashed the greatest furor around the Nelson city council table in recent memory.

Part of the Star’s look back at the top stories of 2012.

While Washington state voters approved decriminalizing marijuana this year, the idea of supporting a similar initiative in BC unleashed the greatest furor around the Nelson city council table in recent memory.

In June, councillor Donna Macdonald introduced a motion asking the mayor to join eight of his counterparts in backing Stop the Violence BC — a coalition of academics, law enforcement officials, and others hoping to “starve organized crime of the profits they reap as a result of [marijuana] prohibition.”

An impassioned Mayor John Dooley, however, said he would do no such thing.

“I won’t be signing this,” he said in an uncharacteristic outburst. “If it is asked of me, I won’t, based on the mountain of information I have come up with … I believe it will have a negative impact on our community.”

“I don’t believe it lessens the safety of our community,” councillor Deb Kozak replied. “When alcohol was regulated it did stop a lot of violence. The gang warfare ended.”

“Prohibition brought us all these problems,” councillor Paula Kiss agreed. “I’m saying please let us be leaders in coming up with a better system.”

Dooley, however, insisted he was showing leadership, and wanted more information before supporting the campaign. “I’ll go to the wall on this,” he said.

Macdonald’s motion passed, with councillor Candace Batycki also in favour and Dooley opposed along with councillors Robin Cherbo and Bob Adams. But Macdonald suggested deferring her motion until after the Union of BC Municipalities convention in September, which Cherbo and Dooley felt was the proper venue for the debate.

At the convention, a resolution asking the federal government to decriminalize and regulate marijuana passed. “The Union is generally fairly conservative,” Macdonald said, “so to see delegates supporting decriminalization sends a very clear image that it is not a fringe issue.”

Stop the Violence BC also refuted some of the mayor’s comments.

“The situation simply is not working and we need to have a sober and adult conversation that gets away from the rhetoric and ideology that got us stuck in the quagmire we’re in,” Dr. Evan Wood, a professor of medicine at the University of BC, told the Star.

When the issue returned to Nelson council soon after, cooler heads prevailed and a much more subdued discussion took place. In fact, there was little debate as council adopted Macdonald’s revised motion, endorsing the UBCM position.

But Dooley said many questions remained, including actual cost savings on policing through decriminalization and whether municipalities will see any return on taxation. And though a majority of local governments support change, he doesn’t expect to see it anytime soon.

For his part, Nelson police chief Wayne Holland saw Stop the Violence as contributing to an important dialogue. “Proposals such as this start a conversation,” he said. “They rejuvenate a debate that has been going on for decades.”

Holland doesn’t expect this proposal or any other to offer a magic solution, but thinks it may contain some worthwhile strategies.

Just Posted

VIDEO: This is what buying legal pot in B.C. looks like

Take a look inside B.C.’s first and only legal pot shop located in Kamloops

Pacific Insight to lay off part of workforce

The company says it is transferring automotive production to its Mexico facility

Black belt tests on this week at Kootenay Martial Arts

Grandmaster Brenda Sell returns to assist in testing

UPDATED: Four Nelson marijuana dispensaries to remain open after legalization

Nelson’s police chief has no plans to close them down

Nelson candidates debate climate change at forum

Mayoral and council candidates had the chance to speak on five fictional resolutions

VIDEO: Candidates at Nelson election forum

Mayoral candidates joined 18 council candidates for an evening of very short answers

Jagmeet Singh says marijuana pardons are not enough

Trudeau government will streamline pardon process for Canadians convicted of simple possession of marijuana in the past

BC Ferries begins taking debit in two-month pilot project

Company is giving customers option to use Interac on two-month trial on select vessels

Caregivers banned from smoking, growing cannabis around children-in-care: MCFD

Ministry has limited cannabis use for caregivers, stating it may “pose a risk to children and youth.”

Cheaper strains sell out within minutes on online BC Cannabis Store

Province says new strains will become available in the coming months

Only 40% of B.C. car dealerships have electric cars available: report

Researchers found buyers frustrated at the lack of options

VIDEO: Millionaire Lottery returns to give back and win big

Since 1996, Millionaire Lottery has raised $52 million for the VGH+UBC Hospital Foundation

Baby boomer buba shares heartfelt novel with Okanagan audience

Pauline Daniel will be at Vernon’s Bookland and library Oct. 20

Test case challenges a politician’s right to block people from Twitter account

3 people say Watson infringed their constitutional right to freedom of expression by blocking them

Most Read