Marijuana Reefer-endum: Provincial Pot Campaign Lacking Support
by Tyson Kelsall, Culture Editor
The legalization of marijuana has been a hot topic in British Columbia since its neighbour, Washington State, decided to legalize it last November. Since then, the organization Sensible BC has amped up their campaign for a provincial referendum to decriminalize adult possession of the plant. They started collecting citizen’s signatures at the beginning of September.
How it works:
Sensible BC has 90 days to collect enough signatures or else the petitions are bunk as far as a referendum goes. “Enough signatures” means roughly 335,000. However, these signatures must reflect at least 10% of people in each provincial electoral riding. So, no, not all 335,000 signatures can come from Vancouver Island. Since Sensible BC started in September, the end date will be December. If they end up being successful there would be a referendum in September of 2014. Historically, only one other grassroots petition has been successfully pulled off and that was the Anti-HST campaign led primarily by former Social Credit Premier Bill Vander Zalm.
After their first month, Sensible BC was approximately 15,000 signatures short of their self-identified target. In some areas they were on track, others they were faltering. Dana Larsen, the spokesperson for the group, told CTV that they are having some troubles in Prince George.
Critics of Sensible BC:
Many people are concerned about the fact that marijuana is not made illegal by provincial law. In fact, only the Controlled Drugs and Substance Act, a federal policy, restricts it. Sensible BC argues that the province can decide to not enforce the federal law and use police resources in a more ‘sensible’ way.
However, the cost of the HST referendum is said to have cost taxpayers roughly $8 million dollars as a stand-alone ballot, compared to the Single Transferable Vote referendum which tied itself to the provincial election and was said to cost somewhere between $1-2 million extra. The question becomes whether or not it is worth the monetary cost of only decriminalizing marijuana on a provincial level, or to wait until there is an opportunity to make it legal through Federal policy.
Politics Around Prince George:
On the provincial level, Liberal leader Christy Clark has been relatively quiet on the subject of marijuana, as has Prince George MLA Shirley Bond. Federal MPs Bob Zimmer and Dick Harris have been opposed to legalization; especially Zimmer who once tweeted that he is “against legalization period.” Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad has been one of the few Liberals saying anything on the issue, stating that it should at least be talked about. If you are interested in Sensible BC, check out their website: www.sensiblebc.ca. Let us know what you think about legalizing in BC on the Over the Edge facebook page