Pot advocate drums up support for petition in Nanaimo

NANAIMO - Canvassing for Sensible B.C., a campaign for a marijuana referendum, is set to begin in two weeks.

With canvassing set to start for a marijuana decriminalization referendum, the man spearheading the effort was in Nanaimo soliciting volunteers Thursday.

Beginning Sept. 9, the campaign will have 90 days to gather about 400,000 signatures and Dana Larsen, director of the Sensible BC campaign for a marijuana referendum, said it is more than just getting people to sign a petition.

“We’re going to need a couple thousand canvassers all around the province to make this succeed,” Larsen said. “It’s a very complicated enterprise. We need to collect signatures from 10 per cent of the registered voters in every one of B.C.’s 85 electoral districts. There’s a different form for each district – they have to sign the right form.

“There’s a lot of places to make mistakes and have confusion but we have some really devoted volunteers. We’re educating everybody on how to do it properly and we’re hoping we’re going to have a really successful campaign.”

Larsen said the message the campaign is trying to get across is that marijuana should not be a criminal offence and marijuana possession should be a low priority for police.

“We really want to work towards a legally, regulated system starting right here in British Columbia and we can do that as a province,” Larsen said.

He said the aim is to have all the signatures collected by end of November with everything put together and brought to Elections B.C. by the deadline.

If the required amount of signatures is collected, Larsen said the Sensible B.C. group’s legislation, The Sensible Policing Act, would go to the B.C. Liberal government.

“They have a bit of time to decide whether they want to introduce it into the legislature themselves or whether they want to have a referendum, which is what we’re really expecting them to do, to have a public vote on this,” he said, adding the non-binding referendum would take place in September 2014.

Larsen said more than 20 volunteers were signed up from the Nanaimo area and while people from across the province have expressed support for the campaign, the pro-campaign contingent on the Island is notable.

“I haven’t done polling specifically to the regions but in terms of the number of volunteers and signups, we do have a pretty strong team out here on Vancouver Island. People are working hard, so I’d say it’s one of our stronger regions,” Larsen said.

People can go to sensiblebc.ca for more information.