Referendum in the works

“Well you know there should be no law on people that want to smoke a little dope.”

“Well you know there should be no law on people that want to smoke a little dope.”

Blues legend Muddy Waters sang those words more than 30 years ago, but the dream of smoking pot without the smoke-and-dagger routine that surrounds it today seems to be making real headway.

An attempt to demonize marijuana today would be received as a comical farce, but we do still (at least potentially) lock people up and give them permanent criminal records for carrying a joint in their pocket.

Should we do this?

The dangers of marijuana don’t seem so great that we need to prohibit it beyond the controls already in place on tobacco and alcohol.

Could police and court resources be better spent in other ways? For example, I’d feel more safe by increased highway sobriety checks than more busts of kids carrying joints. Of course, you have the right to view the matter in a completely different light.

Whereever you stand on the issue, there’s an opportunity coming up for everyone of us to have our voices heard. The proposed referendum on cannabis law reform – the Sensible Policing Act –  would allow B.C.’rs to voice their opinion in a binding way.

How often do we get to do that? How often do we get to participate democratically on an issue in such a direct and immediate fashion?

Nobody’s saying everything should be decided by referendum, but some issues seem to escape the ability of elected leaders to look beyond their four-year noses and take action.

Does anyone know anyone who actually doesn’t smoke pot because it’s illegal? I doubt it. Anybody that wants to smoke is smoking already, and people that don’t smoke are people who simply don’t want to.

Decriminalizing simple possession, it seems to me, wouldn’t make any difference in the day-to-day lives of illegal cannabis users or non-users. I can legally buy cigarettes now, and I don’t. Decriminalizing cannabis possession won’t change my habits.

Regarding the upcoming campaign to collect enough signatures to force a referendum, I’m on board with that. Sign me up. I won’t light up with you to celebrate the arrival of a referendum, but I’ll be glad to see the opportunity for some direct democracy.

The laws surrounding cannabis possession have been mishandled for so long, it might be difficult to imagine what things should, or could, look like.

What can’t be allowed to persist is a situation where enforcement of the law is left to the discretion of police forces, or worse, individual officers.

It’s not fair to ask individual officers to exercise judgement in something that can have such far-reaching consequences as a permanent criminal record.

It’s also not fair for citizens to have laws enforced in different ways across different regions. Will the authorities in Smithers turn a blind eye to simple possession, but down the road in Vanderhoof they’ll bust you?  This is just an example, but my point is, the law shouldn’t be enforced based on the region you live in, and that appears to be the way cannabis laws are enforced today.

A criminal record can make a mess of your life. Maybe it’s time the province finally faced the issue head-on and let the people speak. On Sept. 9, I’ll be voting to bring that opportunity to pass.


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