B.C. Conservative Party Leader John Cummins.

B.C. Conservative leader takes step toward pot reform

Marijuana users shouldn't be criminals, John Cummins says

B.C. Conservative Party leader John Cummins spoke out in support of marijuana decriminalization Tuesday, but won’t yet commit his party to change provincial policy on the issue.

During Monday’s televised leaders debate, Cummins gave the first sign of supporting pot law reform, saying the idea deserves debate and should be discussed with U.S. officials.

“I don’t see making a criminal out of somebody who has a small quantity of marijuana,” Cummins told Black Press in a post-debate interview.

“I just don’t see that as reasonable. It’s in widespread use. And I don’t see the people who are using it as criminals. I don’t see that they should be prosecuted or persecuted for it.”

Cummins, who is running in Langley, said he still has concerns about marijuana reform, including whether minors might gain easier access, how drivers impaired by the drug would be caught and whether users are more prone to abuse other drugs or suffer health problems.

“Government has to have all the facts on the table before you move ahead,” he said.

The comments shift the former Conservative MP sharply away from the anti-reform stance of his former federal Tory colleagues and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has always ruled out changing Canada’s marijuana laws.

The issue is expected to get more attention this fall when the group Sensible BC will try to gather enough signatures across B.C. to trigger a provincial referendum on pot reform.

Its aim is to force through legislation directing police to stop spending money and officers’ time enforcing the law against simple cannabis possession.

Asked if he supports that campaign for de facto decriminalization, Cummins said he’s taking a wait-and-see approach.

“It’s not a big issue for me,” Cummins said. “I understand fully where these people are coming from and I share many of their concerns. I’d be quite happy to stand back and see where the public debate is going on it.”

He said he doubts police spend much time on the “harassment of recreational drug users” but if that happens, there are “a lot better ways their resources could be deployed.”

Cummins also cautioned against viewing marijuana as a possible cash cow for government.

“If government thinks it can sell this stuff through a storefront and put a tax on it and make money on it, I think that they’re dreaming,” he said. “The underworld, the gangs are still going to be able to put product on the market cheaper than the government’s going to be able to sell it.”

Sensible BC director Dana Larsen welcomed Cummins’ statement and said it’s not that surprising because recent polling shows a majority of Conservative-leaning voters in B.C. back decriminalization or legalization of marijuana.

“It really shows what broad support this has,” Larsen said. “He’s in line with the majority of Conservatives in B.C. Voters from every political party in B.C. still want to see these laws changed.”

NDP leader Adrian Dix said during Monday’s debate he favours decriminalization of marijuana but called it an issue for the next federal election.

Liberal leader Christy Clark steered clear of the issue Monday, saying it’s not a priority for her.

Green Party leader Jane Sterk strongly backs legalization of marijuana and other controlled substances, with the government in charge of sale and distribution.

The issue has gained a higher profile in B.C. with a parade of high-profile policy leaders endorsing reform through the Stop the Violence coalition.

Last fall’s vote of Washington State voters to legalize and tax small amounts of marijuana at the state level also gave reformers here more optimism.

Just Posted

UPDATE: Rescue teams scale back search for missing woman

Maple Ridge squad joined effort in Coquitlam’s Westwood plateau area.

Parents rally to support LGBT education in Abbotsford schools

Small demonstration held in the rain to counter anti-SOGI rhetoric

Union contests layoffs at Maple Ridge motel

Demonstration planned for today at former Quality Inn

Pitt Meadows councillor convicted of sex assault resigns from job

David Murray will retire from work with city of Port Coquitlam

Letter: Take a stand to protect victims

I believe that Pitt Meadows Coun. Dave Murray should be forced to resign immediately.

Friendship benches donated to two Maple Ridge schools

Benches promote empathy, friendship and self esteem at school

David Cassidy, teen idol and ‘Partridge Family’ star, dies at 67

Cassidy announced earlier this year he had been diagnosed with dementia

VIDEO: It’s ‘disrespectful’ that White Rock council not notified of Trudeau visit: mayor

PM should be welcomed to city by council, not former mayor and First Nation chief, Baldwin says

RCMP warn of counterfeit US $20 bills passed in Chilliwack

Police received a ‘rash of calls’ from merchants in the Yale-Vedder corridor

Vigil held for woman whose remains were found on Shuswap farm

Family and friends remember Vernon resident Traci Genereaux and along with five other missing women

LETTER: Jumbo Valley is part of Ktunaxa territorial claim

Ktunaxa Nation Council responds to Tom Fletcher column

RCMP bust 3,800-plant marijuana grow-op on First Nation reserve near Chilliwack

Three men face charges for large drug operation on Soowahlie Reserve

VIDEO: Government approves funding of $750,000 drug for B.C. woman

Approval comes one day after province announces funding for Soliris on a case-by-case basis

Most Read