Drug reform activist Dana Larsen has high hopes British Columbia’s marijuana laws will go up in smoke as those in neighbouring Washington State did last year if enough signatures can be gathered to put the question of decriminalization on a provincial referendum.
The founder of Sensible B.C. will be hitting the road over the next 90 days in a donated former Greyhound vehicle nicknamed the Canna-bus and plans to visit every electoral district in the province in an attempt to sign up at least 360,000 people, the minimum number of registered voters required by Elections B.C. to consider it.
“This is an issue whose time has come,” Larsen, 42, told a small gathering of reporters Monday morning outside the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre shortly after getting the necessary paperwork from Elections B.C. “The vast majority of British Columbians want to see a change to the marijuana laws and don’t want to see their taxpayer dollars going towards arresting and convicting people for possession but our politicians in B.C. aren’t responding to the people on this issue so we want to have a referendum and force this onto the ballot.”
Larsen, who was once a federal NDP candidate for West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country, has written draft legislation called the Sensible Policing Act demanding the federal government repeal marijuana prohibition or give B.C. an exemption so it can tax and regulate cannabis like it does alcohol and tobacco. A recent Angus Reid poll found that 73 per cent of British Columbians support the potential taxation and regulation of the drug, which proponents argue would reduce profits to organized crime and better prevent youth from smoking it.
So far 1,7000 volunteers — many of them veterans of former premier Bill Vander Zalm’s Fight HST campaign of two years ago — have signed up to be canvassers. To be successful, they need to gather the signatures of at least 10 per cent of registered voters in all 85 provincial ridings in order to make B.C.'s Select Standing Committee on Legislative Initiatives either table a report recommending the introduction of a draft bill or refer the initiative to the chief electoral officer for an initiative vote.
Larsen said he is more concerned about urban districts than rural ones.
“I’m actually more worried about Vancouver and Surrey, not because there is a lack of support but more because we need to get so many signatures in a relatively small area and we need a lot of canvassers to be there and make it happen,” he said. “Someone in downtown Vancouver might also say ‘When I smoke a joint, the cops don’t do anything anyway’ so they might feel complacent, and we have to remind them that might not always be the case and outside Vancouver in the rest of the province, marijuana possession charges are skyrocketing.”
For more information on the campaign or where to sign the petition, visit sensiblebc.ca.
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