Cop David Bratzer pushes for marijuana leniency

While off duty, constable collects signatures for Dana Larsen’s marijuana initiative.

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      David Bratzer is unlike other canvassers in the ongoing initiative campaign to decriminalize marijuana in B.C.

      Depending on the time and day, he could be asking someone on the street to support the petition or possibly slapping the cuffs on another for pot possession.

      Bratzer is a Vancouver Island Capital Regional District police officer who believes that drug prohibition is wrong.

      “When I’m on duty, I’ve always been clear that I will enforce the law as it stands,” Bratzer told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview. “I’ve sworn an oath to uphold the law.”

      But after the uniform comes off, the constable aims to sign up about 1,000 people during the 90-day signature drive that started Monday (September 9).

      Because of his job, there may be occasions when the 36-year-old cop has to arrest people for drug offences. “But when I’m off duty, I advocate to change these failed policies around cannabis prohibition,” said Bratzer, who is also the president of the Canadian chapter of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

      LEAP is an international organization of active and retired professionals in the criminal-justice system that calls for an end to the so-called war on drugs. It supports the initiative spearheaded by pot activist and Sen­sible B.C. spokesperson Dana Larsen.

      As far as Bratzer knows, he’s the only cop who is a registered canvasser in the campaign to amend provincial law so people will no longer be busted for simple marijuana possession. It’s a role that he said he’s “comfortable” in because even the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police is now seeking changes in the enforcement of cannabis laws.

      At its annual meeting last August, the association, led by president and Vancouver Police Department chief Jim Chu, proposed ticketing and fining people with small amounts of marijuana as an alternative to either looking the other way or laying criminal charges that will only burden the courts.

      It’s an idea that former police officer Kash Heed brought up in November 2001. When he appeared then before a Senate committee on illegal drugs as an inspector with the Vancouver police service’s vice and drugs section he talked about “limited prohibition with civil penalties”.

      In an interview on September 9, Heed expressed some irritation that it has taken police chiefs such a long time to catch up. “This is going back 12 years ago,” Heed told the Straight by phone. He recalled that the failure of prohibition was recognized decades earlier, in the 1970s, by a federal commission of inquiry into drugs that was chaired by law dean Gerald Le Dain.

      “What irks me a little bit is you have these chiefs coming out and saying they’ve got this innovative way to deal with the marijuana situation,” Heed said. “Well, come on. All they had to do was go back…and look up what Le Dain said. Le Dain came out and said our policies are failing.”

      Following a long career in policing, Heed entered politics in 2009 and served as a controversial one-term Vancouver MLA.

      Heed, as someone who preceded Bratzer in his cause, knows the kind of pressure brought to bear on a police officer who speaks on marijuana policy. “You’ve got to have a thick skin because you’re actually going against the culture,” Heed, a sessional SFU criminology instructor, said. “You’re going against, most likely, the chief of the department. You’re going against many people within the department. The people that do support you are silent on the matter because they fear that their careers will be limited.”

      Bratzer, a family man with a young child, is in his eighth year wearing a badge. His two brothers are also police officers.

      “Being a police officer who advocates for legalizing and regulating drugs, it can bring some challenges at times with my career, and so it’s a balancing act,” he said.

      Bratzer works four shifts and gets three days off a week. He figures that if he can gather an average of more than 10 signatures a day, his goal of signing up 1,000 people by December 5 is doable.



      Jillian Galloway

      Sep 11, 2013 at 2:30pm

      Every person that chooses to use marijuana casts a vote for legalization. The increase in marijuana use reported recently is not so much a "problem that has to be fixed" as it is the voice of millions of American voters telling the government that they want marijuana put on the same legal footing as alcoholic beverages.

      Alcohol causes liver disease, heart disease, brain damage, violence, cancer, and kills 80,000 people/year in the U.S. Marijuana, on the other hand, does none of these things. We could prevent a lot of the harm that alcohol causes by giving people the right to choose marijuana instead of alcohol. People should NOT be arrested for wanting to make the safer choice!


      Sep 11, 2013 at 3:48pm

      I agree! Let people choose the safer choice if they want. It's ridiculous!

      Bruce Dean

      Sep 11, 2013 at 7:28pm

      He's a good and fair cop.
      I've spoken with him often and photographed him in the Rock Bay area.

      Sam Fox

      Sep 12, 2013 at 12:06am

      People need to look up:

      US Founders And Indian Hemp

      Rx Drugs Kill More Than Prohibited Drugs

      Militarized Police Kill Innocent Citizens

      Thousands Of Uses For Hemp

      The Emperor Has No Clothes

      The war on some drugs has become more deadly than the prohibited substances. This war is lost. Time for a new direction, which is NO way surrender. Not to mention, we can't afford the travesty!


      James Kerr

      Sep 12, 2013 at 9:26am

      This is Courage...I am completely humbled by you David. Just amazing thank you.

      Think of this

      Sep 12, 2013 at 10:43pm

      The fact that people are so desperate for marijuana to be decriminalized shows that they are addicted.


      Sep 12, 2013 at 11:43pm

      I can appreciate what is being done here. Too many people have been victimized and brutalized while having these ridiculous 'legalities' forced on them. Let me assure you there is nothing Lawful about these rules at all. There are way too many people in jail for doing what they have the lawful free-will choice to do. This is a plant that is natural to our world and natural to us, how else do you explain the cannabis receptors in our body? It's been Divinely created for us to alter our consciousness, offer healing, to provide for us warmth among MANY other things.

      Cannabis is not a drug! No one can tell us we 'can't' consume nature, I don't care if who it is. They are WRONG and Natural Law says so. No one stands between me and my creator, no man is above me nor below. This world has been created as a Sacred Mother for us and I will say what I want or don't from her. I do not subscribe to 'man's law' especially around things like this where my Inherent Rights are violated by another man. No way, no how! Uniforms mean nothing to me.

      I will smoke it without fear of 'legalities' because I am an adult and I (alone) have supreme authority (soul owner) of my body and consciousness. I, and only I, will decide what happens to me. I have Birthrights and they are Natural (Nature/cannabis) and I will not adhere to ANY statute,act or 'legal law' that restricts me from them.

      Not to mention that the medical scare system and big pharma are a DEADLY SCIENCE EXPERIMENT... but those are legal drugs through them. If the 'corporate policy makers ACTUALLY looked at what the REAL cost, the cost of human suffering and even pretended to give a shit, this plant would not even be looked at negatively. The benefits are astronomical and it can be used for so much more, similar to cotton and linen.

      The only thing that should be prohibited is the corporatocracy that masquerades as govt. It is de facto and foreign to our soil but we allow them to 'grant US privileges'. Well, I for one prefer to live in Lawful Rebellion. If a 'law' is stupid then I will break it!

      Peace out brothers and sisters!


      Sep 12, 2013 at 11:57pm

      House Resolution 499 is the answer, strikes "marijuana" entirely from the Controlled Substances Act, and authorizes the ATF to regulate it as alcohol or tobacco is regulated. Controlled Substance Act not with standing, would resolve the issue between states choosing it yes or no, and allows the federal level to drop the futile expenditures of tax money to fight the tax-free profits cartels are raking in currently in it's prohibition.


      Sep 13, 2013 at 6:49am

      As a retired LEO, I commend your efforts and God Speed!


      Sep 13, 2013 at 9:05am

      This officer shows courage and a willingness to take fire, not literal fire from the enemy but the disapproval of his own people, who may wonder at the temerity of a serving officer seeming to advocate for a scheduled substance.