Sensible BC referendum campaign

Group seeks to decriminalize marijuana

By Sophie Isbister, Life & Style Editor

A BC-based group called Sensible BC is looking to collect enough signatures across British Columbia on a petition to include a referendum question in the September 2014 provincial election ballot. This referendum would amend the BC Police Act, which governs police conduct and includes provisions that oversee the enforcement of federal drug laws. The amendment, titled the sensible policing act, would essentially decriminalize the possession and use of cannabis.

According to the summary of the legislative proposal posted on Elections BC’s website, the sensible policing act “would prohibit the use of provincial police resources for this purpose, would require police to report in detail to the Minister of Justice any actual use of resources for this purpose and why it was necessary, and require the Minister to publish that report.”

The act will also look toward repealing cannabis prohibition at a federal level, and includes a mandate that the province hold a public commission. The commission will, according to Elections BC, “study the means and requirements necessary for the province to establish a legal and regulated model for the production and use of cannabis by adults.”

The act will include federal exemptions for BC’s new cannabis laws until cannabis is removed as a scheduled substance, and will also require an amendment to the BC Liquor Control Act, which would make possession of cannabis by a minor illegal much in the same way alcohol and tobacco are controlled.

Sensible BC requires 10 per cent of registered voters across all of BC’s 85 provincial ridings to sign the petition. That amounts to over 400,000 signatures. In order to successfully campaign for a referendum, all of those signatures must be collected in a 90-day period. In the past, the only group that has successfully gathered enough signatures to place a referendum question on the ballot has been the campaign to repeal the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST).

The campaign began on September 9, 2013, and will run for three months. Campaign lead spokesperson and cannabis activist, Dana Larsen, told the Georgia Straight that at the start of the campaign Sensible BC had already secured over 1,700 volunteers to canvass for signatures. Larsen added, “I’m very confident that if we can get the signatures, we will win the referendum.”

According to Sensible BC’s website, “Over 3,580 British Columbians were charged with simple possession of marijuana last year. This is close to double the rate of charges of any other province.”

They seek marijuana law reform because, according to their website, “Decriminalizing the simple possession of cannabis in this manner will save taxpayers money, help unclog our justice system and stop young people from having their lives ruined over a joint. This is the first step towards a more sensible cannabis policy.”