The race to collect 400,000 signatures begins

By Andrew Brown

With Sept. fast approaching, so does the urgency to act and get involved with the Sensible BC campaign. This will be the last issue of the Cannabis Digest before the campaign’s signature gathering begins, and we strongly encourage our B.C. readers to take part in our province’s best chance to reform cannabis laws. This isn’t a legalization effort that will, once and for all, end the “war on weed,” but it is the best thing we can do provincially to counter federal law that will not change under our current Canadian “Harper” government.

For those unfamiliar with the campaign, Sensible BC is “calling upon the B.C. government to pass the Sensible Policing Act, which will redirect all police in the province from making searches, seizures or arrests in cases of simple cannabis possession,” as they state on their website <SensibleBC.ca> The Sensible Policing Act calls for the setup of “a public commission to figure out the best path toward a legally regulated and taxed cannabis system in B.C.” It will also allow for police to deal with impaired driving and youth possession in a way similar to the way they treat alcohol offences.

Since last Oct., Dana Larsen and his campaign crew and volunteers have been tirelessly working to make voters aware of the campaign, through a tour of of communities across the province, media attention, social media, and public events, among seemingly endless other ways. In order for the campaign to proceed to referendum, signatures from 10 percent of registered voters in each of the 85 ridings need to be collected—amounting to approximately 400,000 signatures.

This was recently done with the anti-HST campaign. As many people will remember, signature collectors could be seen regularly in public, but they were not as proactive as Sensible BC, who have pre-registration to make signature collection easier, and the ability to gauge where volunteers need to be sent out en masse. While media attention is positive regarding the campaign, the anti-HST was a regular staple in most newspapers and news broadcasts. Supporters are encouraged to write letters to media, while continually contacting their MLAs to garner their support.

At this point, the most important thing you can do to help this initiative get to referendum is to pre-register on <SensibleBC.ca> so that volunteers can easily obtain your signature on the official petition later this year. If more time can be spared, you are encouraged to click on the box to volunteer while pre-registering, or email <volunteer@SensibleBC.ca>, committing to help collect signatures. You can also download pre-registration forms, and collect as many signatures in your community as possible.

The campaign has been kicking into high gear to prepare for Sept., and have generated some amazing attention. On June 10, Sensible BC began running a billboard ad in West Vancouver just past the Lions Gate Bridge. It is estimated that 250,000 people saw it in the first week alone. For Canada Day, a plane was hired to fly the Sensible BC banner across the sky over celebrations in Vancouver. Larsen was also recently interviewed and featured in an article in Maclean’s Magazine titled, “Why it’s Time to Legalize Marijuana.” It is a seven-page article, and has many quotes about Sensible BC.

In more of a dark humour tone, Prince Rupert RCMP spent six months investigating the Chad Smoke Shop, which sold only common headshop items, and seized their inventory. On June 27, Larsen took advantage of the absurd raid on the local business to highlight the faults of the drug war and bring attention to the Sensible BC campaign. He presented the local RCMP detachment with a trophy that read “Award for the most time wasted, six months investigating bongs.”

“It’s great that they’ve solved every other crime in Prince Rupert…and have nothing left to do,” he told the Northern View newspaper. “This is not where I think most British Columbians believe our police resources should be focused. It really underlines the need for legislative change in our province. That’s what our Sensible BC campaign is all about.”

With the introduction of mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes by the Federal government, and changes to the system to access medical cannabis, (see this issue for more details regarding the MMPR) we could see many legitimate medical cannabis user, facing harsh penalties due to access or affordability issues forcing them to break laws. Couple this with the ethical issue of criminalizing recreational use of a substance with a fraction of the potential health risks of alcohol, and the continually increasing cost of enforcing cannabis laws, and the Sensible Policing Act would be a welcome change. Last year, a financial burden of $10.5 million was placed on B.C. taxpayers to simply detain, charge, and convict cannabis users. This figure does not include court and police costs of pursuing dealers and growers. Since 2005, the cost has doubled, and is sure to increase as the true cost of MMS begins to be felt. All of this in light of public opinion, according to all recent polls, clearly wanting an end to marijuana prohibition.

Get involved, sign up, pre-register your family and friends, and help make positive change. Once the official signature collecting begins, there is only a short 90-day period to collect all 400,000 signatures. This is not an easy task, and in order for this campaign to reach referendum, volunteers and donations are needed.

j