MP Wilks calls for marijuana policy changes

David Wilks has advocated for the continued criminalization of marijuana since being elected in 2011

Kootenay-Columbia MP David Wilks has advocated for the continued criminalization of marijuana since being elected in 2011, but he may no longer see eye-to-eye with the rest of the Conservative Party on exactly how the drug should be criminalized.

Wilks said he is in favour of ticketing for marijuana possession, a proposal put forward by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police in 2013. The proposal indicates possessing under 30 grams of marijuana would warrant a ticket, rather than giving possessors a criminal record.

“My views are not exactly in line with the party on this one,” Wilks said. “I am for ticketing, but the party is not quite there yet.”

Wilks said ticketing for marijuana would be similar to administering an open liquor ticket. Further, he said it would be a better way to prevent teenagers from developing marijuana dependencies and habits.

“I give you your ticket for open liquor, and I say to tell your parents that you got this ticket and why you got it, and I will be following-up with your parents in 24 hours,” Wilks said. “It makes teenagers accountable. If it changes the mindset of some users, that is what it is intended to do.”

In line with his party’s stance, Wilks said he is not in favour of legalizing or decriminalizing the drug. Still, he said there might be some potential for legalization in the future, once a few current issues are solved.

“We are not ready for legalization,” Wilks said. “Are we going to be there at some point? We may be.”

Wilks said police are currently incapable of dealing with marijuana impairments, because a quick and reliable test, like a breathalyzer test for alcohol impairments, has yet to be invented.

“The only way you can do it is by blood… and it is extremely time consuming,” Wilks said. “It also requires a doctor, so there are some significant challenges there.”

According to Wilks, another problem with legalization is that it would put teenagers at risk by making it easier for them to access the drug. He said curbing teen marijuana use will be the next big challenge for the American states that have legalized it.

“Although Colorado and Oregon have said that things have gone well, it is interesting to determine how they are going to combat those under the age of 18 obtaining cannabis marijuana,” Wilks said.

Wilks suggested legalization would support the illegal marijuana industry, since the drug would become a more accepted part of everyday life, but users would still in large part purchase marijuana from illegal dealers. He said people would buy marijuana where it is cheapest, and legal dispensaries would not be able to keep prices down after taxes.

“Let’s just say that you have got some really good ganja and you are going to sell it for $450,” Wilks said. “If I can pick mine up for $200, you tell me where I am going. Until you can get the price point, you are banging your head against a brick wall.”

Recently, Kimberley city council unanimously voted to grant a business license to Tamarack Dispensaries, to sell high quality medicinal cannabis products such as edible cookies, butters and oils. To grant the license, council had to override its own bylaw, which states that council will not provide a license to an applicant that does not meet the lawful requirements to operate a businesses, as set out by the federal government.

The government allows only Health Canada to administer medical marijuana, thus strictly prohibiting the existence of dispensaries. Still, council endorsed the dispensary, to help people in town access a medical solution for chronic pain.

Wilks challenged the legitimacy of Kimberley’s dispensary, saying it will essentially deal illegally in a faux-medicalized setting.

“What happens is that cities such as Vancouver or Kimberly circumvent the system and say that will set up dispensaries,” Wilks said. “Where are you getting your dope from? It is not from a legal source.”

According to Wilks, marijuana dispensaries such as Tamarack discourage medical marijuana producers like Dycar Pharmaceuticals in Cranbrook, who are licensed to produce for Health Canada.

Going into the federal election on October 15, marijuana should prove to be a divisive subject for voters across the riding.

Since all the Kootenay-Columbia candidates have a slightly different stance, voters will get a chance to share their opinions on the future of marijuana use in Canada.