Pot vote dismays Langley Township councillor

UBCM decision to lobby feds on marijuana decriminalization misguided, says Steve Ferguson

Langley Township Councillor Steve Ferguson is disappointed in a vote taken at UBCM to lobby the federal government on the decriminalization of marijuana.

Township Councillor Steve Ferguson said he is surprised and disappointed that delegates at the Union of B.C. Municipalities passed a motion calling on the federal government to decriminalize marijuana.

The vote passed narrowly by a show of hands, and Ferguson said that there may have been a different outcome had electronic voting been used.

He and Al Siebring, a councillor from North Cowichan, challenged the method of voting, but were overruled.

The UBCM held its annual convention in Victoria last week.

The vote on decriminalizing marijuana occurred on Sept. 26, shortly after a debate which featured Geoff Plant, a former B.C. attorney-general who favours relaxing pot laws, and Dr. Darryl Plecas, a University of the Fraser Valley criminologist who holds the opposing view.

Ferguson told the delegates that “legalizing marijuana will not solve the gang or violence problems associated with the illegal drug.”

Those supporting the resolution indicated that it would stop gangs, save police costs, and generate much needed income for municipal coffers.

It won’t work that way, Ferguson said.

“I was surprised at the level of misunderstanding. The gangs aren’t going to go away.

“In fact, they could go into greater production to supply the U.S. market, and we won’t be reducing police numbers in our communities.

So where is the benefit . . . a system that is taxed like tobacco . . . That’s a big stretch.”

Ferguson retired last year as a teacher and high school counsellor with the Delta School District.

Working with students who have learning and behavioural problems, he encountered many who were dependent on marijuana use.

Speaking from Victoria on Thursday, Ferguson said a Delta School District study found a “definite correlation between chronic use and a lack of motivation, reduced IQ and cognitive ability.”

“We had known this for years,” Ferguson said.

“Heavy use really affects the students’ grades, focus, and general interest. It’s a real concern.”