Elections BC has approved the Sensible Policing Act, a law which would effectively decriminalize marijuana possession in the province, as valid legislation and suitable for a referendum. Sensible BC visited Fernie today, outside The Lunch Box, to spread the word of the up coming campaign. Many locals came to show their support during their lunch break.
“We are gathering signatures today to preregister our supporters so we have a big head start,” said Dana Larsen, Director of the Sensible BC campaign, which drafted the legislation. Sensible BC currently has 30,000 supporters in their data base that they hope to call on for registered canvassers.
“Elections BC’s approval shows that the provinces do have the power to effectively decriminalize marijuana,” said Larsen. “BC politicians can’t say this is solely a federal issue anymore. Our province pays for all the costs of marijuana enforcement, and now we’ve confirmed that BC has the jurisdiction to take action and make change.”
Sensible BC now has 60 days before the 90-day signature-gathering period begins on September 9. If the campaign can collect signatures from 10% of the registered voters in each electoral district, the Sensible Policing Act will be put to a referendum in 2014.
“We can start registering canvassers next week,” said Larsen. “We’ll need a few thousand volunteer registered canvassers to collect the roughly 400,000 signatures required. Anyone who wants to help out and become a canvasser should visit our website at sensiblebc.ca.”
“There is still a stigma around this issue that makes people afraid that they could lose their job or have negative repercussions by supporting our campaign,” said Larsen. “A lot of our supporters don’t use marijuana, as well as some of our top organizers. People don’t want to see their tax dollars wasted. Many people think marijuana should be treated the same as alcohol, not criminalized. ”
Daniel Dufresne has been canvassing in Hosmer. “Most people I’ve spoken to support this but many are afraid to sign for fear they will lose their jobs.”
“Our polling shows over 70% support in BC for the provisions of the Sensible Policing Act,” said Larsen. “The question for us is, are there enough British Columbians who feel passionately about this issue for us to get the many canvassers and volunteers we need?”
The Sensible Policing Act does four things, all within provincial jurisdiction:
1) Instructs all police in BC to spend no time or resources on searches or arrests for marijuana possession.
2) Treats a minor in possession of marijuana as if it were alcohol.
3) Formally calls upon the federal government to repeal marijuana prohibition, or give BC an exemption to marijuana prohibition.
4) Creates a provincial commission to figure out the laws and rules needed to legally regulate marijuana cultivation and sale.
Larsen is currently on tour through BC’s Kootenay region, building support and training canvassers for the campaign.
“We’re working to build awareness and register people as canvassers so they will be able to collect signatures,” said Larsen.
The Sensible Policing Act has already been endorsed by organizations such as Stop the Violence BC, Health Officers Council of BC, The BC Civil Liberties Association, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, The Vancouver Sun and The Province.