Signatures collected

With enough signatures Sensible BC is hoping to curtail funding of enforcement of marijuana possession laws by police.

Locals were given the opportunity to sign a petition calling for reform of marijuana laws last weekend in the West Boundary.

Locals were given the opportunity to sign a petition calling for reform of marijuana laws last weekend in the West Boundary.

Canvassers in favour of decriminalizing marijuana were in front of McMynn’s grocery on Saturday collecting some of the 500,000 signatures needed from across the province to trigger a referendum on the issue.

This was the first day that Midway residents Heinz Kreuzer and Ross Elliott were out canvassing. “People have been really good,” said Kreuzer, “Really supportive.”

On Sept. 9 Sensible BC began collecting signatures for the petition. If they get 10 per cent of the registered voters in each provincial riding (numbers range from 400,000 to 500,000) a referendum will be held in 2014. They have 90 days to collect them.

The Sensible Policing Act has four components:

  • Remove funding from the use of police resources for enforcement of simple possession of marijuana. It would prohibit all police in the province from using any police resources, including member time on investigations, searches, seizures, citations, arrests or detentions related solely to simple possession of cannabis – essentially decriminalizing the simple possession of cannabis in BC. It doesn’t impact on any of the laws around trafficking, possession for the purposes of trafficking, or cultivation.
  • To deal with minors, the Sensible Policing Act also adds cannabis to the section of the BC Liquor Control Act ,which covers minors in possession of alcohol. This will enable a police officer to confiscate cannabis from a minor, in exactly the same manner and with the same penalties as for alcohol.
  • The Sensible Policing Act formally calls upon the federal government to repeal cannabis prohibition by removing cannabis from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, or to give British Columbia an exemption so the province could legally tax and regulate cannabis.
  • Mandates the provincial government to launch a public commission, which will hold hearings to study and recommend the specific rules needed for the province to implement a legally regulated cannabis system once the federal government allows it.

Black Press columnist Tom Fletcher has recently spoken against the petition. Fletcher says that, although he has been calling for legalization and regulation of pot for 20 years to conserve police resources and reduce violent crime, the Sensible Policing Act diverts no revenue to government, leaving it in the hands of criminal dealers who buy cocaine, guns and fancy cars. “Our war on drugs is a failure even for heroin and cocaine, and marijuana is obviously much easier to produce,” he said in a recent column.

Fletcher has the same criticism for the suggestion by police chiefs that simple possession be treated as a ticket offence to keep the court time to a minimum.

Dana Larsen is the lead organizer for the petition and he responded by saying, “The ultimate aim of Sensible BC is to have B.C.’s marijuana industry regulated in a manner similar to wine.”

“Last year, B.C. police made more than 16,500 arrests for marijuana possession, draining $10.5 million in police and court time away from investigation of more serious criminal offences.”

One month into the 90 days allotted for circulation of the petition Larsen reported that the number of signatures each week has been steadily growing, as of Oct. 10 it stood at 65,000.

The Sensible BC Facebook page says that about 3,500 signatures are needed in the Boundary Similkameen riding, with the count being about 1,000 on Oct. 10.

In 2012 delegates to the Union of BC Municipalities convention passed two resolutions dealing with the taxation and regulation of marijuana:

1) that UBCM call on the appropriate government to decriminalize marijuana and research the regulation and taxation of marijuana,

2) UBCM supports the taxation and regulation of cannabis to address the ineffectiveness and harms of cannabis prohibition.

Local organizers invite those wishing to sign the petition to contact them: Heinz Kreuzer at 250-449-2657 or Ross Elliott at 250-449-2333.