Decriminalization on the agenda Monday in Victoria

It's the first time the UBCM membership has been asked to consider a resolution calling for the decriminalization of pot specifically.

Decriminalizing marijuana was the subject of a pre-conference workshop Monday at the 2012 UBCM Conference in Victoria.

The idea of decriminalizing marijuana is being tossed around today by some of the 1500 mayors and municipal reps from across B.C. converging in Victoria.

As chair of the UBCM Resolutions Committee, Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz confirmed it was up for discussion Monday morning in a pre-conference session at the 2012 Union of B.C. Municipalities annual convention.

“It’s going to be an incredibly exciting and busy week with a total of over 200 resolutions coming forth,” she said.

“Monday will see discussion about decriminalization, as well as tanker traffic and pipelines.”

Former B.C. attorney general Geoff Plant was set to weigh in as a member of Stop the Violence coalition of experts pushing for an end to criminalization of marijuana.

The proposed resolution, which calls for the regulation and taxation of pot, from the District of Metchosin is:

“Whereas marijuana prohibition is a failed policy which has cost millions of dollars in police, court, jail and social costs; and whereas the decriminalization and regulation of marijuana would provide tax revenue, therefore be it resolved that UBCM call on the appropriate government to decriminalize marijuana and research the regulation and taxation of marijuana.”

Gaetz said it’s the first time the UBCM membership has been asked to consider a resolution calling for decriminalization of pot specifically.

Wednesday will see the actual vote of membership take place on that same issue.

Chilliwack councillors, Jason Lum, Ken Popove, Susan Attrill and Stewart McLean will be in attendance, along with Mayor Gaetz, in various roles and times during the week-long conference.

The whole debate over decriminalization comes as UBCM is also set to consider another cannabis-related resolution, to ensure medical marijuana production requires a permit, and is in compliance with all municipal safety and building regulations.

It originally was submitted in 2011 as a late resolution, “but did not meet the criteria to be admitted for debate as an emergency resolution,” according to 2012 UBCB Conference documents, and now it’s being proposed amidst the federal proposals to overhaul the Medical Marijuana Access Regulations.

A resolution tackling the scourge of contaminated sites, or “brownfields” is being offered by the communities of Vanderhoof, Mackenzie and Burns Lake, suggesting the owners should be obligated to clean up their underground messes.

It notes that these vacant, or “orphaned” properties, often along transportation corridors and in downtown areas, are “eyesores” that have real or suspected contamination which “negatively impacts” economic development.

UBCM has been trying since 2007 to urge the provincial government to take decisive action on this, to no avail, so the resolution asks that the Ministry of Environment be authorized to legislate that owners of all contaminated brownfield sites, regardless of their hazard rating, be required to remediate these sites by request of local government.

“It would be a huge change,” said Gaetz.

The infrastructure funding deficit is also on the conference agenda, in the context of allowing the UBCM to negotiate a wider range of infrastructure programs in the future.

“The focus is so narrow in that we have to put the gas tax revenues into green energy projects. But the people are saying our communities need roads,” said Gaetz.

The debates on Coast Guard services and policing in rural communities are sure to attract strong interest as well, she said.

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