Vision Vancouver's Kerry Jang can expect to pay a political price for city crackdown on marijuana dispensaries
Vision Vancouver councillor Kerry Jang hasn't shied away from some tough issues ever since he was first elected in 2008.
He's been the front man on the city's efforts to extend Homeless Emergency Action Team shelters, drawing the ire of False Creek North residents.
Jang has also faced criticism from some downtown residents and businesses for defending the city's decisions to provide alternative housing options in the Quality Inn and Bosman Inn.
At times, he's crossed swords with the Carnegie Community Action Project over the city's response to poverty in the Downtown Eastside and for the city's hardnosed approach to the Ming Sun heritage building on Powell Street.
He's also been attacked within the Chinese Canadian community for pushing for a ban on shark-fin soup. One restaurateur even called him a "banana", which is a derogatory term to describe someone of Chinese descent who's white on the inside.
Once again, Jang is doing the heavy lifting for his council colleagues by being their spokesperson. This time it's in connection with the looming crackdown on marijuana dispensaries.
The city's new regulatory regime could lead to the closure of about 100 of these storefront operations, which will cause significant job loss in a tough economic environment. Part of the reason is an arbitrary 300-metre limit between these shops and schools.
Jang is defending the city's moves as a reasonable response to the proliferation of dispensaries. But some wonder why there's such a hurry when the federal government is planning to bring in legislation next spring to legalize possession of cannabis. There has also been a recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling upholding the legal rights of medicinal-marijuana users.
According to lawyer Kirk Tousaw, this decision could offer a "legitimate defence" for dispensary owners who decide to sell cannabis edibles, which are prohibited under the city's regulatory regime.
"When you have the City of Vancouver talking about an absolute ban on edibles based on sort of fear of harm—fear of harm to health—the factual findings of the Supreme Court of Canada seem to undermine that concern fairly significantly," Tousaw told the Straight last year.
Vision Vancouver can't be complacent
In the 2014 election, Jang came sixth with 62,595 votes. But he was second among Vision Vancouver candidates.
It would be easy for the party to think that Jang has sufficient political capital that he can take the hit on the dispensary issue and still get elected.
But he shouldn't underestimate the wrath of marijuana activists when they feel that they're getting jacked around by the authorities.
What's interesting about the last election is that the four opposition members of council—Adriane Carr, George Affleck, Elizabeth Ball, and Melissa De Genova—all attracted more votes than the six Vision Vancouver councillors who were elected.
Had the NPA only run six candidates rather than eight, it could have concentrated its votes and had a better chance of knocking off the two Vision elected councillors with the fewest votes: Tim Stevenson and Geoff Meggs.
In 2008 in his first run for office, Jang came fourth with 60,598 votes and ranked first among the rookie candidates. In 2011, he performed even better, coming in second in the race for council with 61,931 votes.
Just because he's done well in the past, however, is no guarantee of future success, should he decided to seek reelection in 2018.
That's because when people lose their jobs, it has a way of focusing their minds and those of their family members.
If Jang's name appears on the ballot again, the cannabis-legalization movement will most certainly exert a price for what's happening this week in Vancouver.
The question is: will it be enough to throw him out of office?