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Follow U.S. lead on pot, MLA says

Vancouver-Fraserview MLA Kash Heed - Black Press files
Vancouver-Fraserview MLA Kash Heed
— image credit: Black Press files

B.C. political leaders should stop pointing fingers at Ottawa and follow the lead of U.S. states on marijuana legalization, Vancouver-Fraserview MLA Kash Heed says.

A former B.C. public safety minister and commanding officer of the Vancouver Police drug and gang units, Heed spoke out as voters in Washington, Oregon and Colorado prepared to vote Tuesday on initiatives to regulate and tax the sale of marijuana for adults.

Heed said Premier Christy Clark and NDP leader Adrian Dix have no difficulty speaking out about federally regulated interprovincial pipelines, but both defer to the federal jurisdiction on marijuana law. Action is needed to address the gang violence that goes along with the marijuana trade, he said.

"There's a lot of hypocrisy going around Victoria right now," Heed said in an interview. "They're speaking out of both sides of their mouths on different issues."

Both Clark and Dix have admitted to trying marijuana in their younger days, but both have indicated this year that they don't plan to push for legalization.

Dix said last week he has long advocated decriminalization, which would reduce simple possession to a ticket offence. He said Prime Minister Stephen Harper's measure to require jail time for growing more than six plants is the wrong direction, but B.C. can't consider regulating and taxing sale until federal law allows it.

A new Angus Reid poll commissioned by a pro-legalization group called Stop the Violence B.C. shows support for legalization is up to 75 per cent. That's up six per cent from last year, and Heed has joined former attorneys general, doctors, police officers and others who have called for action.

Heed said the same arguments were used when he joined the push for a supervised injection site in Vancouver. Provincial and local governments lobbied the federal government to allow pilot projects for the INSITE clinic, and provided funding as well, he said.

Heed said he has studied the results of 17 U.S. states that allow medical marijuana exemptions and 14 others that have tried decriminalization.

"The problem with that is there's still a black market in the production and distribution of marijuana," he said. "And if you don't get rid of that black market, the gangsters are still going to be involved in it, and we'll still have the violence on our streets."

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