Marijuana petition campaign kicks off in Kootenay East

Volunteers for Sensible B.C., have until Dec. 5 to collect more than 400,000 signatures — 3,100 in Kootenay East.

A 90-day countdown began Monday, Sept. 9,  for a petition campaign to decriminalize simple possession of marijuana in B.C.

Volunteers for Sensible B.C., have until Dec. 5 to collect more than 400,000 signatures.

The same sort of campaign, under the same laws, was used three  years ago to force repeal of the harmonized sales tax. The petition to trigger a province-wide referendum needs support from 10 per cent of registered voters in each of B.C.’s 85 electoral districts. The province-wide campaign is led by long-time marijuana legalization advocate Dana Larsen.

In the electoral district of Kootenay East, the campaign is just getting up and running.

“We are concentrating this week to set up regular sign-up stations where people can sign the petition,” said local organizer Barbara Kern. “Basically, we just finished setting up all the canvassers so they can now go out and collect those signatures that we need.

“We encourage any support, ideas and volunteers,” Kern added.

Kern said the eligible voting population in the riding is 30,244.

“Out of that, ideally we would like to see 15 per cent to compensate for rejections and delays, etc. But 10 per cent would require us to have 3,100 signatures from the Kootenay East riding. This includes Sparwood, Elko, Fernie, Baynes Lake, Galloway, Jaffray, Moyie, Wardner and Cranbrook.

“So this is a task to take on, to reach some of those people in the rural areas,” Kern said.

“Getting people to recognize that this is a referendum act is also important, because this is giving us the chance to express our concerns. The Sensible Policing Act would allow police to concentrate more on violent crimes and murders.

“And let people cast their vote.”

For more information or to volunteer, contact Kern at barbbkern@gmail.com, or call 250-581-2523.

In Kimberley, in the riding of Columbia River Revelstoke, Jeff and Ashlee Taylor were hitting as many homes as possible over the weekend and said the response has been mainly positive. They will also have a booth set up at 465 Mark Street (right beside the liquor store) on Saturday, Sept. 21 from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Larsen has proposed that B.C. go around the federal prohibition with a “Sensible Policing Act” that would disallow the use of B.C. police resources to prosecute simple possession of small amounts of pot by adults.

Marijuana possession cases still account for 60 per cent of drug violation reports to police in B.C., according to Statistics Canada figures from 2012. But the number of cases declined 10 per cent from 2011.

There were 25,432 police-reported incidents of all types of drug offences in B.C. last year, a 7.4 per cent decline from 2011. Marijuana trafficking cases declined more than 20 per cent to 1,006 incidents, and importation and exportation of marijuana declined by 40 per cent.

Marijuana growing cases declined 4.6 per cent, following a 28.6 per cent drop in 2011.