Will Cannabis Legalization be an Election Issue in BC?

Article by David Brown, Lift

Will cannabis legalization be an election issue in BC? With the provincial election a month away, those in the cannabis industry in BC want to see legalization become an election issue

British Columbia’s provincial election is tentatively scheduled for early May of this year, and some in the cannabis industry are hoping cannabis becomes an election issue.

Marijuana legalization, while popular in British Columbia, has traditionally not been an election issue in the province. Even as cities like Vancouver and Victoria passed laws to regulate cannabis dispensaries, Christy Clark, BC’s Premier since 2011, has historically politely deferred to federal authority on the subject of legalization. Despite the ‘Liberal’ title, the party base relies upon votes from many from the right of centre in British Columbia, and cannabis is seen as an untouchable issue to many of these voters.

Similarly, the BC NDP, the opposition party in BC most likely to challenge the BC Liberals, have in the past elections played safe politics with the subject, apparently feeling the issue isn’t popular enough to warrant taking on and possibly losing some centre right voters in the process.

One advocate for the cannabis industry in BC, Reid Parr, says he sees it not as safe politics, but ‘old politics’. Parr is an industry consultant with the Cannabis Trade Alliance of Canada (CTAC). CTAC has been actively lobbying various jurisdictions on the issue of legalization, including the government of British Columbia, on the “establishment of a proper system of regulation of the cannabis industry.”

The subject of cannabis legalization has matured, he says, and taking a leadership role on the issue could pay off for either party in the same way it arguably paid of the the federal Liberals in the 2015 election.

“They’re playing old politics. Look at the federal Liberals in the last election. They took that risk (to make legalization an issue), and look what happened, they got a huge turnout from young people, and a lot more people came out to vote than have in the past few elections.”

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