Pubdate: Tue, 16 Jul 2013
Source: Kamloops Daily News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2013 Kamloops Daily News
Page: A3


Marijuana activist Dana Larsen is edging closer to an initiative
petition to decriminalize simple possession of cannabis in B.C.

Larsen toured through the southern Interior over the weekend and held
a meeting of supporters at a downtown restaurant Sunday night.

A former B.C. NDP leadership candidate, he is laying the groundwork
for a petition drive after Elections B.C. gave its official stamp of
approval to his petition last week.

As director of Sensible B.C., Larsen proposes the Sensible Policing
Act, which would effectively decriminalize marijuana possession
through a shift in enforcement policy.

"People are cynical," he acknowledged. "They think it will never

If the campaign can collect signatures from 10 per cent of the
registered voters in each electoral district, the legislation would be
put to a referendum in 2014. If the referendum were to pass, the
legislature could still vote down the legislation, but that would
carry political risk, Larsen said.

The directive has a precedent in the federal government's move to end
the long-gun registry. When the legislation was to be repealed, police
were instructed to no longer enforce it.

Citing more than 70 per cent support for the proposal, he believes the
petition can succeed providing the campaign can muster sufficient support.

"People want it now and we've just seen it happen in Washington and
Colorado," he said, noting that U.S. anti-drug policy has long been
used as rationale for maintaining the status quo in Canada.

Like the anti-HST petitioners of two years ago, he has a formidable
task ahead of him - the petition requires 400,000 signatures to be
gathered in 90 days, starting Sept. 9. He hopes to recruit canvassers
in each provincial riding.

"Every community is going to need a lead couple of people working for
this change . . . . It's not going to be easy and I don't want to be
over-confident, but we've got a good chance of making this work out."

He expects recruitment will be much more difficult than it was during
the anti-HST campaign since there remains a stigma and fear of
repercussion associated with pot use in some communities.

"Nobody was afraid of losing their job because they wanted to end the
HST," he said. "A good chunk of our people are not users, they just
want to change dumb laws."

The campaign got a kingsized financial boost from Terrace resident Bob
Erb, a pot activist who won a $25-million lottery jackpot in April.
Erb donated $200,000 and is matching all other donations as well.

"We started this on my credit card and I was hoping not to finish that
way because I'd be all maxed out," Larsen said.
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