Pubdate: Sun, 25 Aug 2013
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2013 Times Colonist
Author: Amy Smart


When marijuana activist Dana Larsen gathered a small group of 
Victoria volunteers on Saturday, having them register as canvassers 
was a big part of his fight for marijuana decriminalization.

The Sensible B.C. director must gather signatures from 10 per cent of 
the province's voting population by Dec. 5, if he hopes to get a 
referendum on marijuana decriminalization on the ballot. And only 
registered canvassers can collect the names.

"The hard part is just getting these half a million signatures that 
we need in a very short time, it's a huge logistical challenge," he 
said. "But I'm very confident that if we can get it on the ballot, 
the referendum will pass."

Larsen has scheduled 15 such meetings on Vancouver Island in six 
days, in an intensive strategy to spread the word.

Each of the 15 or so volunteers who arrived at Moxie's Bar and Grill 
on Yates Street had their own reasons for supporting pot decriminalization.

Retired teacher Bill Stamps said he believed too much money and 
energy has been wasted enforcing drug laws, when police should be 
free to focus on more important issues.

"There's obviously a need for regulation, but it doesn't have to be 
done on a criminal basis," he said.

His partner Judith Stamps, who is a 67-year-old retired political 
science professor, said she has supported marijuana use since she was 
17. She called it "a very nice, life-enhancing substance" and said 
people should be free to enjoy it without fear.

Rejean Bussieres, who played on his acoustic guitar at the meeting, 
called it a matter of social justice.

And Deborah Diduck, a former small-business owner who recently moved 
to Victoria, said that marijuana helped save her life.

About 15 years ago, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer and 
doctors recommended a full hysterectomy, removal of her lymph system, 
as well as chemotherapy and radiation. Instead, she opted for 
"all-natural healing," which included using marijuana.

She continues to smoke pot to treat insomnia, muscular pain and 
arthritis and hopes that it will become more readily available to others.

"Instead of using 16 or 17 pharmaceuticals, I use one healing herb," she said.

Larsen has prepared legislation called the Sensible Policing Act, 
which would effectively decriminalize marijuana by stopping B.C. 
police from making searches or arrests for simple possession.

The law also calls on the federal government to repeal marijuana 
prohibition, so that the province can legally regulate its 
cultivation and sale.

Elections B.C. has accepted Larsen's referendum submission. He will 
have 90 days, starting Sept. 9, to collect about 400,000 signatures.

Larsen also held meetings in Sooke and Duncan on Saturday.

"We're hoping to have quite a few thousand canvassers around the 
province by the time we get going," he said.

The campaign already has about 1,000 canvassers, he said, adding he 
hopes to double that number in the next two weeks.

Larsen said he is optimistic about the turnout in Greater Victoria.

"I feel really confident that we're going to get the signatures we 
need in Victoria and on the whole Island," he said.
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