Mayor John Dooley’s emotive stand against a motion of support for the Stop the Violence BC campaign on Monday night came as a surprise. Yet, he completely stands behind his stance and tone.
According to its website, Stop the Violence is “an educational campaign seeking to improve community safety by broadening the public’s understanding of the link between cannabis prohibition and gang violence.” It’s backed by former high ranking politicians and police officials, respected medical professionals, and current mayors. While the majority of council voted to support the initiative the mayor said he “would go to the wall” against having his name attached in support. And in a lengthy debate dominated by Dooley, the mayor managed to produce one of the most high octane and divisive meetings the city has witnessed in some time.
His stance and delivery of opposition to the motion has already spurred advocates for the legalization of marijuana to accuse Dooley of sabotaging democracy and failing the community. Though the mayor may have overstated his opposition to the motion put forward Monday night, he is entitled to his opinion.
Dooley told the Star on Wednesday that he’s not against the idea of the decriminalization of marijuana or even many of the ideas contained in the Stop the Violence campaign. His main concern is signing his name to a document he has not had enough time to study and at this point does not feel comfortable with being associated with.
Council is asked many times each year for letters of support. Some pass, some fail. Few are as potentially explosive as the issue of marijuana legalization.
Stop the Violence campaign has eight BC mayors signed on with official support including Gregor Robertson of Vancouver and Robert Sawatzky of Vernon. At this point Dooley does not want his name waved as part of that relatively small group. Fair enough.
Where the mayor failed in his opposition was in his delivery. Many people have used the word “bully” to describe his tactics. Discrediting those who have signed onto the campaign was also a mistake.
Monday night was clearly not a high point for the mayor and this current council. And though Dooley deserves to be criticized, he doesn’t deserve to be vilified. We can at least thank him for helping open up the debate even further and hope that eventually the right answer is found when it comes to how this country deals with the pot trade.