Candidates from the four major parties in the newly-revamped Kootenay-Columbia riding have entered the home stretch as they try to sway voters in Canada's 42nd General Election on Monday, October 19th.
The three candidates — Bill Green of the Green Party, Liberal candidate Don Johnston and Wayne Stetski of the NDP — have been busy circling the riding in an attempt to gain support to try to unseat incumbent David Wilks of the ruling Conservative Party.
To help voters in the Kootenay/Columbia riding make their decision, The Nelson Daily is sending out weekly questions to quiz the candidates on pressing issues during the campaign.
Christina Yahn of the Libertarian Party has withdrawn from the election in the Kootenay-Columbia riding.
Question three deals with the topic of Marijuana.
Do you support legalizing cannabis for both medicinal and recreational use? If not, what is your position regarding mandatory minimum sentences for the use of cannabis?
Bill Green, The Green Party
I fully support the Green Party policy with respect to marijuana/cannabis for both medicinal and recreational use, which is: Legalize, Research, Educate. Legalize so that the link between the production and sale of cannabis and drug gangs is severed.
Research to carefully determine the full range of health/medicinal benefits and health risks. Where scientific studies demonstrate health benefits and appropriate modes of use and dosages, medical marijuana should be brought fully within our regulated drug and medical system so that people needing cannabis treatment can obtain prescriptions from their family doctors and purchase treatments at their local drug store.
The Green Party national Pharmacare plan will then kick in so that cost is not a barrier to anyone needing therapeutic marijuana.
Physicians then need to be educated on the medicinal values of marijuana, and Canadians should be informed of the results of ongoing research about the health benefits and risks of various modes of cannabis use.
Decriminalization for possession is simply not good enough, as sale (trafficking) would remain a criminal offence and continue to associate access to marijuana with criminal gangs.
Wayne Stetski, NDP
Medicinal marijuana is already legal in Canada, with the federal government issuing approvals.
The challenge for municipalities is whether or not to allow marijuana operations in the community, and under which zoning and conditions. It is important, in my opinion, not to have large medicinal grow-ops located in residential areas due to potential odour and safety concerns. Storefront locations also need to be carefully located and the conditions of the licenses enforced.
Medicinal marijuana, as already determined by the Supreme Court of Canada, should be available in a variety of forms. Smoking is a health hazard regardless of what you are smoking.
An NDP government will decriminalize recreational use of marijuana. Our citizens should not be imprisoned for simple possession.
The same rules that apply to where tobacco smoking is prohibited should also apply to marijuana smoking. This concern has been raised by a number of Kootenay Columbia residents.
We need to have further study and research on the benefits and harms of marijuana, and we need a real effort to properly educate the public on this matter.
David Wilks, Conservative Party
I do not support the legalization of marihuana; however, I am in full support of the Canadian Chiefs of Police motion calling for a ticket-able offence for small amounts of marijuana (1 to 30 grams).
I support the Supreme Court decision on medical marijuana and our government has implemented rules for medical marijuana facilities.
Don Johnston, Liberal Party
At the Prestige debate people heard me say ‘legalize, educate, research’ but that’s not to make light of the issue. SFU Criminologist Neil Boyd has said that ‘ the majority who don't use cannabis should care about how their tax dollars are being spent and on the hypocrisy of labeling someone a criminal for an act that really doesn't threaten the social fabric.”
If you’re a ‘former’ Conservative supporter it’s important to understand that despite the condescending ads about Mr. Trudeau the Liberal call for legalization — not simply decriminalization — is the best way to keep marijuana out of the hands of children, prevent proceeds from funding criminal activities, and reduce negative health impacts.
The World Health Organization revealed that Canada has the highest teen usage of marijuana amongst surveyed countries. If we pass smart laws that tax and regulate marijuana, we can protect our children, while preventing millions of dollars from going into the pockets of criminal organizations and street gangs.
Since 2006 the Conservative’s stance and pressure on police forces has led to a 30 per cent increase in marijuana-related charges against almost half a million Canadians at a cost of $500 million.
The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police even adopted a resolution in 2013 calling for a change in the law to allow police to ticket people for simple possession.
This is a moment for a generational change in attitudes toward many aspects of Canadian life so if you’re an NDP supporter it’s probably a bit embarrassing to hear Tom Mulcair make a ‘clever’ jab at Mr. Trudeau during the first National debate when he used the word ‘puff of smoke’ to describe NDP’s wavering economic policies.
NDP support for decriminalization is simply a way to sweep an issue under the rug. Liberal policy allows us to control use, educate younger people affectively, and remove criminal control so we can focus police efforts elsewhere, and raise taxes to support those changes.