Victoria has become the second municipality in B.C. to formally support the
decriminalization of marijuana use and possession for medicinal purposes.

City council Thursday unanimously passed a motion requesting the Federation
of Canadian Municipalities to lobby the federal government to relax the
laws on marijuana.

The motion was proposed by Coun. Rob Fleming, who said it was designed to
"move Canada away from treating marijuana as a banned substance to a
controlled substance."

The motion follows a similar statement endorsed by North Vancouver council.

This is a case where "society is way ahead of lawmakers," Fleming said.
Many municipalities have expressed the view that fighting medical pot use
is a losing battle, "a waste of police resources," he said. Arresting
people for medical marijuana use is something police no longer want to do,
Fleming said.

His motion was supported by Coun. Pam Madoff, who thanked members of the
public for educating council about the issue.

Several groups of medical users of marijuana, including members of the
local Cannabis Buyers Club, have addressed council on the subject this
month. More than 20 people, some in wheelchairs, with ailments ranging from
cancer to glaucoma, have appealed to council for support on the issue.

Fleming said the federal laws, in theory, allow people to use marijuana to
alleviate medical problems. But the reality is that lawful access to pot is
difficult, if not impossible.

Coun. Helen Hughes was cautiously supportive, approving the motion only
after it was clarified to refer to medical use of marijuana.

But Coun. Denise Savoie said the action is long overdue. "We've been caught
in a time warp on cannabis," she said.

Ted Smith, a crusader for liberalized marijuana laws and a supporter of the
Cannabis Buyers Club, praised council's action.

"To learn that we have council's support is encouraging," said Smith, who
is battling several marijuana charges before the court.

"We've started the ball moving that can hopefully move from Victoria to

Smith said he hopes to convince other capital region municipalities to jump
on the bandwagon.

Under the current law, just three dozen people have received federal
exemptions to use marijuana in the Victoria area.

But there are more than 900 members of the buyers club with medical
reasons, certified by a doctor, to use it, Smith said.

Pubdate: Fri, 19 Apr 2002
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2002 Times Colonist