Dana Larsen: marijuana petition gaining momentum

British Columbia marijuana bill back under microscope

Sensible BC’s campaign for a marijuana referendum is rolling along and promoters came through 100 Mile House looking for support for its initiative petition on Aug. 8.

Originally, Sensible BC had hoped to get the ballot initiative completed last year, but withdrew and re-filed with Elections BC this year to allow more time to gather support.

Organizer Dana Larsen says many canvassers have signed up, but a lot more are needed to secure the petition signatures required to go to referendum.

That means signing up 10 per cent of registered voters in every electoral district in the province between Sept. 1 and Oct. 31.

While they now have about 700 registered canvassers for gathering signatures this fall, they need about 5,000, Larsen explains.

“We need a lot of people on board and it’s a big effort. I’m gratified that we’ve had such strong support so far.”

The initiative petition seeks to legislate the Sensible Policing Act, decriminalizing simple marijuana use by directing police in the province away from enforcing federal laws by no longer detaining or arresting adults for its possession.

If enough signatures can be obtained, there will be a referendum in 2014, or Larsen notes government may simply pass the act in legislature based on the level of public support.

Either way, this would make decriminalization come into play in early 2015, he explains.

Campaign donations are also being sought, Larsen says, adding recent lottery winner Bob Erb of Terrace has committed to matching every dollar raised.

Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod has previously gone on record to note marijuana laws are “very clearly” under federal jurisdiction according to the Constitution, and the federal Conservative government has “no intention” of legalizing marijuana.

While it’s true B.C. cannot legalize marijuana as a province, Larsen says the act being petitioned for calls on the federal government to do that, but in the meantime, it stops British Columbia police from making arrests for possession.

Elections BC has already confirmed that the act is within provincial jurisdiction and suitable for a referendum, he adds.

“That is absolutely within our provincial power, and that happens now on a number of issues in a number of different ways.”

Examples include police turning a blind eye to the sale of illegal water pipes or “bongs,” which he says are regularly sold in stores and even gas stations around province; the B.C. Liberal government’s instructing police and courts to ignore the federal long gun registry in 2003; and the impaired driving enforcement changes that had RCMP in B.C. move away from federal Criminal Code charges and into Immediate Roadside Prohibitions instead.

“If you believe that this law needs to change, this is your chance to make history and get involved. I can’t do it myself; I’ve planted the seed but it requires people all over the province to get involved.”

He encourages people to “shake off your fears” and embrace the “many good things that will happen” under the proposed law changes.

“Sometimes people are afraid of the stigma – that their neighbours are going to judge them – or are afraid they might lose their job or be punished by their employer in some way. Those fears, for the most part, I do not think are valid.”

That’s partly because many Sensible BC volunteers are not marijuana users, Larsen says, but rather have friends or loved ones who use medical marijuana, or are ideologically in favour of changes to the law.

“You don’t have to be a pot smoker to support this – just like you don’t have to be a woman to support women’s rights, or a person of colour to support racial equality.”

It doesn’t matter if those who support the idea think they can gather 10 signatures or 1,000, every effort is imperative to a successful outcome, Larsen adds.

“Visit our website at www.sensiblebc.ca, get involved in our campaign and collect some signatures to help make this a reality.”

100 Mile House Free Press

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