By Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press
VICTORIA – British Columbia’s municipal politicians, sensing shifting emotional attitudes towards marijuana and a possible major new revenue source, voted Wednesday to lobby Ottawa to decriminalize pot and study the benefits of taxing and regulating cannabis. The mayors and councillors from across the province clapped and cheered after voting to support marijuana decriminalization during a stirring debate in a crowded hall at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention. The vote sends a strong message to provincial and federal politicians that British Columbians believe current marijuana prohibition laws are not working and they want change, said Dr. Evan Wood, a noted HIV/AIDS expert who is spearheading a coalition of prominent B.C. health, legal and political officials calling for marijuana decriminalization. “If I was a politician in this day and age, it would be with great reluctance that I wouldn’t take a position of leadership on this and be willing to advance this cause, because at the end of the day, what we’re really talking about is trying to improve public health and safety,” said Wood in an interview. But former Brian Mulroney-era cabinet minister Tom Siddon urged the UBCM to turn down the resolution supporting decriminalization. Siddon, now a regional district politician in the B.C. Interior, said Canada’s current approach to marijuana permits young people to fry their brains while leaving them open to moving towards harder drugs. Siddon said organized criminals would not be deterred by decriminalization from selling pot and resorting to violence to protect their commodity.