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Comox Valley canvassers did their part, but marijuana referendum will not happen

Sensible B.C. director Dana Larsen rallied his troops, but fell short of forcing a referendum about decriminalizing marijuana. - Photo submitted
Sensible B.C. director Dana Larsen rallied his troops, but fell short of forcing a referendum about decriminalizing marijuana.
— image credit: Photo submitted

The Sensible B.C. campaign did not generate enough signatures to trigger a referendum calling for the decriminalization of marijuana.

However, the pot activist group plans to launch another signature-gathering effort, according to its website.

Campaign director Dana Larsen had hoped to trigger a referendum on a draft bill dubbed the Sensible Policing Act, which would amend the Police Act to prohibit the use of police resources to enforce simple possession-and-use laws for adults. It would also demand the federal government to repeal marijuana prohibition, and the Province to determine rules needed for a legal marijuana system in B.C.

Between Sept. 9 and Dec. 9, canvassers collected 210,000 of a minimum 312,000 signatures required from 10 per cent of registered voters in each of B.C.'s 85 ridings.

"It's a matter of money and time," said local activist and canvasser Ernie Yacub. "The money just wasn't there to put together a good enough organization to make it in every riding."

Canvassers in the Comox Vally gathered 5,892 signatures, just shy of a target of 6,000. The minimum was 5,000.

"We made the cut," Yacub said. "We were shooting for 6,000 because we wanted to make a point. That would have been double the number of people who actually voted.

"We proved it was doable in a number of ridings," Yacub added.

Besides the Comox Valley, Alberni-Pacific Rim, Powell River-Sunshine Coast and two Nanaimo ridings were among 20  districts that exceeded the 10 per cent threshold. Parksville-Qualicum and four other ridings were close with more than eight per cent of the electorate signing.

Throughout the campaign, Larsen spoke about cannabis marijuana — the cost of prohibition, the medicinal therapeutic effects, and the fact that it's a weed that can grow anywhere.

"We also talked about this process being our opportunity to practise direct democracy," Yacub said. "We're the only province in Canada that has this legislation (Initiative and Recall). We can petition for a referendum, which nobody else in Canada can."

Locally, there were more than 200 canvassers registered, 79 of whom turned in petition sheets. Yacub credits volunteers for standing on street corners.

"It was a matter of overcoming the fear factor," he said. "People were afraid to put their names and addresses. There's a lot of fear around this issue. I know people who can't talk to their doctors about cannabis.

"Some people hide it from their families, some from their bosses. There's quite a stigma attached."

reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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