In early February, on the heels of the tragic death of Canadian soldier Corporal Jamie Murphy in Afghanistan, Solicitor General Rich Coleman, the top cop in all of British Columbia, told the Vancouver Board of Trade that weapons used in Afghanistan were tracked, and that the money trail led back to the sale of BC marijuana. The headlines said it all: BC bud buys guns for Afghans. When pressed for the backup to his claim, the Solicitor General refused to disclose his sources, but indicated that his office had been provided that information.
The BCCLA was concerned about these remarks because it has been a staunch supporter of legalizing marijuana for over thirty years. “When I read the story, I immediately wanted to determine whether it was accurate or simply the typical prohibitionist fear-mongering,” said Kirk Tousaw, the BCCLA Policy Director. “I think it behooves the public to hold our elected officials accountable for their allegations, and therefore I immediately sent the Solicitor General’s Ministry an Information Act request.”
That request sought “all information supporting Minister Coleman’s claims that the BC marijuana industry financed the purchase of guns used in Afghanistan.” The Ministry responded by letter dated March 9, 2004. In pertinent part, the letter read, “Please be advised that the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General has no records within the scope of your request. The search for records included the Policing and Community Safety Branch, and the Office of the Solicitor General.” While the Ministry did forward the request to the BC Organized Crime Agency, stating that it “may be able to respond” and that it would contact the BCCLA “shortly,” as of the date of this release no such contact has been made. “We aren’t holding our breath,” said Mr. Tousaw, “We think that the Solicitor General’s remarks were the merest speculation and not grounded in fact. Unfortunately, all too often the facts about cannabis are misstated by police.”
In a speech on March 23, Minister Coleman said that BC marijuana is traded on a kilo-for-kilo basis for cocaine, and that cannabis is “usually” laced with PCP or cocaine in order to get people hooked. These claims appear as spurious as his comments about Afghan guns. The US Department of Justice said, in a 2001 report, that “…reports of the reputed exchange of Canadian marijuana for U.S. cocaine on a pound-for-pound ratio are false.” (http://www.usdoj.gov/ndic/pubs07/794/marijuan.htm). And with millions of cannabis users in Canada, why aren’t we hearing about any of these “usually” laced joints?
Mr. Tousaw continued, “I wish that I could say that I was surprised to learn that the Solicitor General had nothing to back up his comments, but I’m not. It seems that truth is one of the first casualties of prohibition. Perhaps it was an unintentional mistake by Minister Coleman, but with allegations this serious I think we should demand more from our province’s top law enforcement official.”
The BCCLA remains committed to the fight to legalize cannabis to, among other things, reduce the harms associated with black markets: “The irony is that, even if all of the SG’s claims were true, it would be an argument for legalizing marijuana. Legal products aren’t adulterated, don’t fuel black markets and criminals and aren’t traded for cocaine. Yet Minister Coleman apparently fails to make these connections, because he continues to argue for increased prohibitionist tactics that are proven failures throughout the world.”