Anti-pot group Smart Approaches to Marijuana Canada looks at legal challenges

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      There is a lot of chatter happening at City Hall this month about medicinal-marijuana dispensaries. A public hearing that began June 10 reconvenes on Monday (June 22), when speaker number 173 will take the microphone at a meeting beginning at 6 p.m.

      Meanwhile, a group called Smart Approaches to Marijuana Canada (SAM Canada) has emerged as a vocal opponent to the city’s proposed regulatory framework for the over-the-counter sale of cannabis. Pamela McColl, a Vancouver-based member of the national group’s advisory council, told the Straight her organization is more than just talk.

      “We have a lot of lawyers looking at this whole thing,” McColl said.

      The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner has opened a file in response to McColl lodging a grievance regarding the Vancouver Police Department failing to enforce federal drug laws.

      According to emails supplied to the Straight, deputy police complaint commissioner Rollie Woods forwarded McColl’s concerns to Mayor Gregor Robertson on June 12 in his capacity as chair of the police board. That body now has until July 10 to respond. The board’s options range from dismissing the complaint to launching a formal investigation.

      McColl told the Straight that SAM Canada is also in the early stages of mounting a legal challenge alleging that business licences the city grants to dispensaries violate certain sections of the Vancouver Charter, including one that states the mayor shall “be vigilant and active at all times in causing the law of the government of the city to be duly enforced and obeyed”.

      In addition, SAM Canada is reviewing legal options at the provincial and federal levels of government.

      In a June 11 email to McColl, the B.C. Ministry of Justice’s policing and security branch confirmed it had received a “request for provincial involvement regarding operational policing decisions in Vancouver” sent to Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton. The email stated: “Police agencies conduct individual investigations at arm’s length from government, and we cannot interfere with or direct police in particular investigations.”

      McColl said SAM is also supplying information to the federal Ministry of Health for any court challenge that could originate within that office (which strongly opposes the city’s plan to regulate marijuana sales).

      Vision Vancouver councillor Kerry Jang (who has been acting as spokesperson for the dispensaries file) said he couldn’t comment while the matter is before an ongoing public hearing. A spokesperson for the city told the Straight Vancouver’s legal department has reviewed the proposed regulations and continues to work with council and staff.

      In a telephone interview, Kirk Tousaw, a lawyer who specializes in cannabis law, told the Straight it’s his opinion SAM Canada’s actions are more about posturing and unlikely to result in any case going to court.

      On the VPD complaint, Tousaw argued that a police department has the authority to set its own priorities. On a potential violation of the law, he noted that part of the city’s plan includes amending existing bylaws.

      “If they [the city] want to issue licences for businesses that are undoubtedly doing business in the city, there is nothing illegal about that,” Tousaw said.

      McColl noted there are a number of ongoing lawsuits targeting U.S. states that have legalized recreational marijuana. She warned Vancouver is likely in store for the same sorts of court challenges.

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      Jun 17, 2015 at 1:09pm

      What a waste of resources. McColl claimed a mere 5% of the Canadian population supported legalization - I'd like to know where she generated this number. She will be on the wrong side of history.


      Jun 17, 2015 at 2:04pm

      Who is the clown missing from the circus?
      Pamela McColl.
      No wonders people have stopped attending with acts like hers.
      I may say it alot but once again that is her point if you look over her script.
      Scare everybody away from a meaningful debate while Pamela McColl profits...

      Pamela McColl

      Jun 17, 2015 at 2:35pm

      31% of women and 40% of men support legalization - that leaves 69% women who don't and 60% of men - I do not know where you got the 5% - fabrication or typo but not the stats I quote. Stop making stuff up reader - comment wrongo.


      Jun 17, 2015 at 2:38pm

      What's stunning is that SAM Canada has not given much if any thought to what will happen to the patients (and so-called "recreational" users) if they succeed in shutting down all the dispensaries, including the non-profit compassion clubs that have been around for years and have garnered community support. Some might try the MMPR, but the evidence tells us that most will return to the black market, making matters worse.


      Jun 17, 2015 at 3:42pm

      "Angus-Reid found support for legalization to be at 50 per cent in November 2010, for example, and 57 per cent in November 2012. Only 39 per cent opposed legalization in that poll, the most recent one asking explicitly about legalization."

      "But when given a choice between legalization and decriminalization, opinion is split. A poll conducted last week by Forum Research found that 36 per cent of Canadians preferred legalization, while 34 per cent were in favour of decriminalization. Another 15 per cent felt the laws should be kept as is (a proportion that has been shrinking over the last two years), and 13 per cent felt the laws should be harsher. Nevertheless, a relaxing of the rules concerning marijuana is overwhelmingly favoured: 70 per cent said they wanted legalization or decriminalization."

      It is from this sort of poll, that offers decriminalization as an option, that we get only 36 per cent supporting legalization. A mere 13 per cent think the laws should be harsher, like you. Even if we add in the 15 per cent who mysteriously like things the way they are (dealers?), we still only get 29 per cent and falling. Many Canadians do not know what "decriminalization" and "legalization" means.

      Sam Canada

      Jun 17, 2015 at 3:44pm

      People who want marijuana for medical purposes can access the MMPR. The bulk of the market for marijuana is youth 2.5 x the size of the adult market and we oppose the commercialization, normalization and promotion of marijuana because it impacts the rate of use by youth. Canada has the highest rate of use by youth in the industrialized world. We want to reduce the use by youth and that means no dispensaries, no commerial outfits promoting drugs or providing easy access to minors or people who would buy and resell to kids. Sweden got their drug problem under control back down to 2% and that is where we need to head. Prohibtion is not eradication it is reduction. We are harm preventionists and we want to see rates come down and that means no promotion and no denying the risks associated with use. The plan before city hall is a bad plan for everyone - it does not take into consideration locations to daycares or libraries or homes were children frequent. It does not take into consider that the product is not tested and it is flawed because it has no cap on the number of dispensaries. It is flawed because some of the people who will be granted licenses have shown a willingess to deny solid science and say things about the benefits of marijuana that can not be backed up by science. This denial of the risks associated with use is offensive and it has ruined it for all of the dispensaries. The courts have ruled that marijuana for medical purposes must be distributed in a controlled manner. The City of Vancouver has no jurisdiction to decide how that access is applied and they do not have the resources to properly regulate and control. Look at what they have allowed to happen. Advertising in every form of media, t.v. print and radio, street sandwich boards, proximity to schools, and they have let this go on for 20 years. We have a high rate of use of marijuana in Canada because of permissive city administrations who do not understand public policy on drug control and should stick to upholding the federal laws of Canada, and they should stick to what they know - dog licenses and parking tickets.


      Jun 17, 2015 at 4:21pm

      Pamela McColl: I thoroughly enjoyed watching you get trounced in that debate last week vs. Dana Larsen. I don't think I've ever witnessed a more lopsided debate. While he maintained his composure and stated facts, you came of as extremely rude, belligerent and hysterical.

      Who sponsors Smart Approaches to Marijuana?


      Jun 17, 2015 at 4:21pm

      This is like fertilizer for the stagnant pot activism scene in Vancouver. A hysterical cartoon villain is exactly what they need to get them off their ass. Pam is the wind that blows through a garden, causing minute tears in the fibre and strengthening the stalks.

      @Sam Canada

      Jun 17, 2015 at 4:22pm

      You are wrong about the City's jurisdiction. Clearly, jurisdiction flows from the people, to the City. Presume Vancouver did not have a Charter from the Province. Would the inhabitants be unable to form a society, manage sewers, manage roads, manage health? Of course not. It is not by grant of the Province or Federal Government that we have a City. Indeed, the idea that people who are not electors in Vancouver get to govern Vancouver through the provincial charter is anti-democratic. Why someone in PEI should be able to set Vancouver's drug policy through his MP in the house of commons is also mysterious.

      The City's Charter grants a wide health jurisdiction. It is lawyers who have been mis-trained to think that the federal Government is somehow God, as opposed to an entity for managing national-scale undertakings like railroads, and in a competent manner. If the federal government were allowing rail sidings to deteriorate into a condition that posed a danger to the health of the City, do you think that the City would lack jurisdiction to regulate them? Your presumption that this is a competently managed federal file is error.

      Salus populi suprema lex esto
      The health of the people will be the supreme law.

      For you to act like the federal government is competent on this file is beyond the pale. Drug prohibition does not work, it leads to violence in communities. At the parliamentary level, you get two constituencies that support drug prohibition: people who work in the prohibition industry along with the occasional "reformed addict" who often has a dual diagnosis: FAS/mental health issues AND drug addiction. Of course, the people who work in the addictions industry will blame the drugs for drug addiction, not treat it as a consequence of FAS and poor decision making capacity. And don't get cheeky and tell me "that's why we need to prohibit the drugs, to save that vulnerable person!" Drug prohibition isn't going to do that. Once we have legal stores, we can have professional ethics imposed on the people dispensing the drugs.

      Face it, Pamela, you're angry, old and in the way.


      Jun 17, 2015 at 4:27pm

      Pamela McColl: Cite your sources! Where are you getting those numbers? Also, when they do surveys, there is also a percentage who answer neither yes or no. Claiming 31% of woman favour legalization, therefore 69% oppose is flat out wrong.

      Those numbers completely conflict with every other survey I've ever seen on this matter.