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Marijuana advocate speaking Saturday in Courtenay

Dana Larsen is touring Vancouver Island over the next two weeks to promote the Sensible Policing Act, which would effectively decriminalize cannabis possession in the province.

Larsen, who last year ran for the leadership of the BC NDP, will speak to supporters in Courtenay this Saturday at the Florence Filberg Centre at 411 Anderton Ave. from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

"The Sensible Policing Act directs all police in B.C. to stop spending any time or resources on searching, seizing or arresting anyone for simple cannabis possession," explained Larsen, who works as director of the Vancouver Medicinal Cannabis Dispensary. "The lawyers at Elections BC have confirmed that this legislation is within provincial jurisdiction and suitable for a referendum."

Larsen is leading the Sensible BC campaign to have a referendum on the Sensible Policing Act, putting volunteers in place to collect the official signatures needed from September to November of 2013.

Local activist Ernie Yacub is a supporter of the campaign.

"Our members have already started recruiting volunteers," said Yacub, manager of the North Island Compassion Club. "We're getting a very positive response: people are saying, 'It's about bloody time.' Too many people have had their lives ruined for using a plant, a medicinal herb that has powerful healing properties."

Larsen has been on tour to 30 B.C. cities and towns since mid-October with stops already in Prince George, Williams Lake, Kamloops and Kelowna.

"There's no reason we cannot decriminalize possession in our province," continued Larsen. "In 2003, B.C. joined seven other provinces in refusing to enforce the Long Gun Registry. At that time, Attorneys General said they didn't want to bother with otherwise law-abiding citizens who were in possession of an unregistered long gun. We're asking for the same sensible perspective when it comes to people in possession of cannabis."

The recent votes to legalize cannabis in the U.S. states of Washington and Colorado has given the Sensible BC campaign a solid boost.

"I have had dozens of media interviews on this encouraging policy change," says Larsen. "Reporters from around B.C. and across Canada have been calling to find out how we plan to do in B.C. what activists accomplished in Washington and Colorado."

Larsen explained that the Sensible Policing Act is very similar to the successful Washington initiative.

"In Washington, they have legalized possession of up to an ounce of cannabis right away, and mandated the state to figure out how to open cannabis shops within one year. Our legislation would also decriminalize possession in B.C., and set up a commission to figure out the rules and regulations needed to create a legally regulated system in our province."

— North Island Compassion Club

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