If you haven’t heard of the Sensible Policing Act, you might want to give it some attention in case you’re called upon to vote in a potential 2014 province-wide referendum.
The act would do two things. First, it would decriminalize simple marijuana possession in the province through an amendment to the B.C. Police Act that would direct police forces to cease dedicating resources in the pursuit of simple cannabis possession charges.
Second, it would call on the federal government to either repeal cannabis prohibition through the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, or to give B.C. an exemption so the province could legally tax and regulate cannabis in a similar way to alcohol and tobacco.
Getting to a 2014 referendum is a grassroots effort spearheaded by Vancouver’s Dana Larsen. He is the former editor of Cannabis Culture Magazine, a founding director of the Vancouver Medicinal Cannabis Dispensary, and a director of the Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries.
He is also leading the Sensible B.C. campaign for marijuana reform.
Sensible B.C. is currently registering volunteers throughout the province to act as canvassers for a Sept. 9, 2013 signature collection blitz. In order to force a 2014 referendum ballot, Sensible B.C. must collect 10 per cent of registered voters in every one of B.C.’s 85 electoral districts within a 90 day period.
Larsen stopped in Burns Lake on Aug. 12, 2013 to meet with the first Lakes District area volunteer canvassers. Three Southside residents, Brian Hiltz, Savannah Pelletier, and Dawn Koeslag signed up to canvas the area for the 10 per cent of signatures needed in the electoral district.
“We’ve been pre-registering people,” said Larsen during his stop in Burns Lake. “We take the names, address and telephone number of people who pledge to sign the [Sept. 9] petition so that we can contact them when the time comes and direct them to a place to sign the petition.”
The locations for the Sept. 9 petition are yet to be determined for the Burns Lake area, although Larsen said that he doesn’t anticipate any difficulty finding friendly locations in Burns Lake.
“Overall, 70 per cent of B.C.’ers support the sensible policing act,” Larsen explained. “There was a majority among every demographic group we could find, including 57 per cent self-described conservative party voters who support the sensible policing act decriminalizing the possession of marijuana.”
Impetus to reform laws surround cannabis possession in B.C. isn’t just about pot smokers looking for more freedom to light up, according to Larsen. It’s about freeing up police resources to face more serious issues, and putting an end to handing out permanent criminal records to young people for the possession of something statistically less harmful than alcohol or tobacco.
“People know what is a crime is and what isn’t a crime,” Larsen said. “If alcohol were still illegal we’d see houses on fire from illegal alcohol production. We don’t see any of that because we have legally regulated control.”
A recent fire and death in Houston has been associated with an illegal marijuana grow and processing operation.
According to Sensible B.C., more than 3500 B.C. residents were charged with simple possession of marijuana in 2012, a rate close to double the rate of any other province.
“The RCMP have a lot of discretion when it comes to charging for marijuana possession,” Larsen said. “[But] the RCMP have doubled the number of possession charges over the last six years. There’s not been a doubling of marijuana use in the last six years.”
“They’re making it a higher priority,” Larsen explained. “And they absolutely have the power to go the other way.”
If this September’s signature collection goes well, Sensible B.C. will have brought the province one step closer to making discretionary enforcement a thing of the past.
“This is non-partisan, non-political,” Larsen said. “This is something we can work on together as an issue. “We’re just hoping that local people will talk to their friends and family, and spread the word that Sept. 9 is the time to get out there.”