British Columbia

Regulated Washington pot sales to be 'boring'

Legalized marijuana possession will not turn Washington into an Amsterdam-like hippie haven, say advocates who were behind a state ballot initiative that passed handily in Tuesday's election.

B.C. marijuana advocates say similar initiative should be held in province

Legal marijuana

10 years ago
Duration 5:28
Washington state has voted in favour of legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, CBC's Duncan McCue reports

Legalized marijuana possession will not turn the state of Washington into an Amsterdam-like hippie haven, say advocates who were behind a ballot initiative that passed handily in Tuesday's election.

Some 55 per cent of voters in Washington approved Initiative 502, legalizing the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by anyone over the age of 21.

"You [will] have marijuana sold in marijuana-only stand-alone stores, you have to be 21 to go in, very limited signage, tight restrictions to go in, so a very boring source of marijuana if you will," said Alison Holcomb, who spearheaded the yes campaign.

The initiative also taxes and regulates the production and sale of cannabis, and makes it illegal to drive while under its influence.

A similar initiative was also approved by voters in Colorado, but one in Oregon was rejected by voters on Tuesday.

Pot advocates in B.C. say it is time for a similar referendum in the province.

Dana Larsen, the leader of Sensible BC, has been campaigning to trigger a similar B.C. referendum on legalization of marijuana in the fall of 2014.

He watched Washington's marijuana initiative with a mixture of envy and a hope for what might happen up here.

Smoking marijuana was legalized in Washington state after Initiative 502 was passed on Tuesday, but only for those over the age of 21. (Gene Johnson/Associated Press )

"I think this is a huge blow against the war on cannabis," said Larsen after the results were announced.

"We need to follow the example put forward by Washington state to end prohibition, to legalize it"

Jodie Emery is the wife of Marc Emery, the well-known pot activist who was jailed in the U.S. for selling cannabis seeds from his Vancouver mail-order business to customers in the U.S.

"It's nothing but positive news for us and we hope the Harper government is paying attention."

Emery says legalizing the production and sale of marijuana would cripple the province's billion-dollar illegal pot industry and the gangs that profit from it.

"We're both affected by the drug violence and the trade that goes across the border. And if Washington is going to legalize it — well it's our turn to do it next."

Both Larsen and Emery say the vote puts the lie to the argument that decriminalization in Canada would bring harsh consequences from the States.

Young Liberals back decriminalization

In Ottawa the the Young Liberals of Canada applauded the decision by Washington and Colorado voters.

 "This is an important first step and inspiration to activists in Canada who want to see Canada embrace a smart drug policy" said David Valentin, vice-president of communications for the Young Liberals in a statement issued on Wednesday morning. 

Both Prime Minister Stephen Harper and NDP Leader Tom Mulcair have rejected decriminalizing marijuana, according to Valentin.

"We are losing over a billion dollars of tax revenue, wasting over $400 million trying to enforce a failed drug strategy and giving young people criminal records. This Harper-Mulcair plan for Canada is wrong," said Valentin.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was in Bangalore, India, on Thursday when he was asked by reporters about the Washington and Colorado votes.

"I won't speculate about what it means south if the border. But the Government of Canada has no intention of opening the issue here," he said.