It’s business as usual as far as pot goes in Vancouver. That’s in spite of a warning from the Federal Minister of Justice.
Earlier today, in announcing a marijuana legalization task force, Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said for the time being, pot remains illegal.
“It is important for Canadians to remember however that while this process unfolds, the current criminal laws on marijuana remain enforced. Production and possession of marijuana are illegal unless it has been authorized for medical purposes.”
But Vancouver City Councillor Kerry Jang says he spoke with Ottawa’s Pot Czar, MP Bill Blair, earlier today and got a clear vote of support.
“They’ve been very supportive of Vancouver’s approach, they call it very innovative. We’re about the only city, really, who has a lot of experience on this file and our approach was balanced and very much what they were aiming to get at.”
Jang says the message he’s getting from the feds is that the key is stopping the uncontrolled proliferation of pot shops; something Vancouver dealt with over the last two years.
“In Vancouver we are not doing anything different from what the ministers were saying. If we know that there’s a pot shop selling to children or organized crime we’ll raid and close them.”
Rule of law
But with the Ottawa stating “criminal laws on marijuana remain enforced,” should the Vancouver Police department be cracking down on users?
The force issued a statement to CKNW reiterating it’s long-held policy:
“The possession and selling of marijuana, outside of the Health Canada licensed program, remains illegal in Canada. We continue to take a priority based approach in enforcing the laws in relation to possession.”
Jang says that position has the full backing of Council, and that any crackdown is in the hands of the VPD.
“That’s the call of the chief and the police board, and that approach has worked here in Vancouver.”
And when pressed on whether choosing whether or not to enforce a directive from the justice department is, in fact, the call of the chief?
“That is the discretion municipal police forces have across the country. They have their budgets, they have their priorities, our police chief says they’re going after organized crime and the big wigs, and that seems to be fine by the ministers from my discussions with them.”
It’s not the first time the city and its police force have held firm to locally produced policy in the face of federal pressure.
Last spring, then-health minister Rona Ambrose sent a letter to Vancouver City Council urging it to shut down its dispensary licensing plans. Then, last September, Health Canada sent a letter to a number of Vancouver dispensaries warning them to shut the doors or face police action.
In both cases, the city pressed ahead with plans.