Chief Jim Chu's call for ticketing marijuana users is just another tax grab
As Sensible B.C. volunteers begins collecting signatures as part of a landmark campaign to legalize marijuana possession, the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs has a different idea.
Last month, its president, Chief Jim Chu of the Vancouver Police Department, called for ticketing people with small amounts of marijuana.
It was presented as a progressive idea to prevent backlogs in the court.
In reality, it would be another way for municipalities or the provincial government to ratchet up revenue by taxing pot users.
The VPD is far less likely than other police agencies in getting the Crown to drag people into court for marijuana possession. But across the province, 3,580 people were charged with simple possession last year, according to Sensible B.C.
That's an awful lot of people who will face future travel and employment restrictions for doing something that's probably less harmful to their health than drinking alcohol.
The VPD under Chu's leadership has obviously concluded that it's not worth officers' time to testify in court. But if they could hand out tickets, say $300 per offence, imagine the amount of money that would flow in from that.
The B.C. Liberal government has already created a traffic-fine revenue-sharing program with municipalities, giving local police forces an incentive to catch speeders.
The cops would be equally eager to bust people for possession of marijuana if this fine revenue was also shared with local governments, which fund police departments.
Sensible B.C.'s Dana Larsen is behind the provincewide initiative campaign to amend the Police Act to make it virtually impossible for people to be arrested for simple possession of marijuana.
He has 90 days to collect signatures of 10 percent of registered voters in all 85 of B.C.'s provincial constituencies.
If he and his supporters reach that goal and the chief electoral officer verifies the signatures, the bill will go to a legislative committee.
Ultimately, Larsen is hoping that there will be an initiative vote, similar to what occurred with the harmonized sales tax, which will convince legislators to enact the Police Act amendment.
It's clear that police chiefs are going in a different direction. Judging from their proposal to ticket marijuana users, they favour a new tax on people who smoke dope.
Chu won't come right out and say he wants a tax increase instead of an end to busting people for possessing marijuana.
But that's the way the debate has shifted in recent weeks.
Governments, of course, will favour anything that results in more money coming in, so you can imagine how Finance Minister Mike de Jong might react to Chu's proposal.
Pot users, on the other hand, might ask why they should have to cough up $300 every time a police officer finds them with a joint in their pocket.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation likes to present itself as the great defender of anyone stuck with an unfair tax.
However, its oft-quoted B.C. spokesperson, Jordan Bateman, has been noticeably silent on this issue.
If you have a problem with a new tax on marijuana users, there's an easy way to register your opposition: ensure you're a registered voter, contact Sensible B.C., and sign one of its petitions.
If enough people decide to do this, it might prevent Chu's proposed tax grab from ever becoming a reality in B.C.