Petition to decriminalize marijuana possession resurfaces

Pot decriminalization pursued by former NDP leadership candidate

Approval in principle has been once again been granted by Elections BC to Dana Larsen’s application for a petition drive to de-criminalize marijuana possession.

This means Larsen can begin collecting signatures to prompt an initiative vote on his draft bill, A Sensible Policing Act, and a proposal that British Columbia circumvent federal laws, by requesting an exemption.

It would disallow the use of police resources in the province to enforce simple possession and use of small qualities of cannabis and work toward its decriminalization. Larson said he believes this will make the province safer.

The bill would set up a B.C. commission to determine what the rules and regulations would be around cannabis control, such as age limits, points of sale and tax rates.

It also proposes establishing a commission to study aspects for a legal, regulated model of production and use of cannabis by adults.

Individuals and groups wanting to oppose the initiative, or collect signatures or advertise (whether in support of or against the petition), must register with Elections BC by Aug. 12.

Larson will have 90 days beginning Sept. 9 to collect petition signatures from 10 per cent of registered provincial voters in each electoral district, with the assistance of his group, Sensible BC.

If the petition support threshold is reached, Elections BC will hold an initiative vote across B.C. It is anticipated it would be by mail-in balloting.

The first time Larson attempted this petition drive in fall 2012, Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod said criminal justice is “very clearly” under federal jurisdiction, according to the constitution.

“Certainly our government has no intention of legalizing marijuana.”

However, polling conducted by Stop the Violence BC and Angus Reid in the fall of 2011 found strong support for policy change, with 12 per cent of British Columbians in favour of keeping existing marijuana laws unchanged.

The Union of B.C. Municipalities also passed a resolution at its annual September 2012 conference to call upon the provincial government to decriminalize marijuana use, and to research regulation and taxation of the substance.

The initiative petition can be reviewed online at www.elections.bc.ca.