Pubdate: Wed, 12 Jun 2013
Source: North Shore News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2013 North Shore News
Author: Jane Seyd


Sign Launches Campaign to Sign Up Voters

ON the same day the federal government announced it will bring in 
greater restrictions for medicinal marijuana users, advocates of 
less-restrictive pot laws also wrote their own message large, with a 
billboard in West Vancouver.

For the rest of this week, drivers heading off the Lions Gate Bridge 
into North Vancouver will go past a billboard urging them to Join the 
Sensible BC Marijuana Referendum Campaign.

The pro-pot lobby group SensibleBC is hoping the North Shore 
billboard will be the first among several in the Lower Mainland to 
get the word out in advance of a referendum campaign to decriminalize 
pot in the province.

"It's an effective way to reach a lot of people," said Dana Larsen, 
spokesman for the group.

Rather than take on the federal Conservative government, Larsen said 
his group has decided to target the province, through B.C.'s 
referendum legislation, to "effectively decriminalize" pot.

He said in the United States where pot laws have become more liberal 
- - Colorado, California and Washington State - it's almost always been 
through a state referendum.

The SensibleBC group wants to force the province to change the Police 
Act so enforcing marijuana laws isn't a priority.

Larsen said that's not as outlandish as it seems.

Since the introduction of administrative penalties for drunk drivers 
in B.C., the majority of those stopped aren't criminally charged 
anymore, he said. "They could do the same thing with pot."

He added in some parts of the province, like the City of Vancouver, 
police already turn a blind eye to marijuana.

But that's not the case everywhere. "It's totally arbitrary," said 
Larsen. "It depends on what cop you get and how that cop's feeling 
about marijuana that day."

In order to get the province to even consider a vote, however, the 
group faces a significant challenge. The campaign must sign up 10 per 
cent of registered voters in each of B.C.'s 85 electoral districts in 
a 90-day period, between September and December. So far the only 
group to pull that off has been the campaign to rescind the HST.

Larsen said he's talked to some of the HST campaigners and has 
financial backing from multi-million-dollar B.C. lottery winner - and 
decriminalization advocate - Bob Erb. He's hoping the billboard will 
drum up more volunteers for the campaign.

Michael Charrois, who previously ran for the NDP in North Vancouver, 
is among those getting ready to collect signatures on the North Shore.

"I think in a time of austerity, prohibition is a tremendous waste of 
money," said Charrois.

"B.C. should be at least as progressive as our American neighbours."

Charrois said he's been out on the North Shore recently trying to 
raise the profile of the campaign, which he concedes faces an 
"onerous" challenge in collecting enough signatures to pass.

"We've got to get people off the couch and to put the Doritos down," he said.

Larsen, who also runs a medicinal marijuana dispensary in Vancouver, 
also criticized a federal government announcement Monday that those 
licensed to use medicinal marijuana will not be allowed to grow their 
own plants starting in 2014 but will have to order it by mail.

Larsen said the new rules won't stop people from growing pot - simply 
push them underground.

Const. Jeff Palmer, spokesman for the West Vancouver Police 
Department, said this week his officers aren't concerned about the 
billboard advocating a pot referendum. "It's advocating something 
that's entirely lawful to do," he said.

It the past eight years, the West Vancouver Police Department has 
investigated 32 marijuana grow-ops, said Palmer.

Palmer said there have been cases where growers have had Health 
Canada licences to grow medicinal marijuana but "are growing well in 
excess of what's permitted."
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