Pubdate: Thu, 21 Nov 2013
Source: Surrey Leader (CN BC)
Copyright: 2013 Surrey Leader
Author: Jeff Nagel
Cited: Sensible BC:


Short of Signatures As Deadline Looms

Dana Larsen isn't conceding defeat yet, but the head of the Sensible 
BC campaign to reform marijuana policing is already talking about 
another petition drive if the one now underway fails.

Canvassers have less than three weeks left before the Dec. 9 deadline 
to submit the petition bearing the signatures of 10 per cent of 
eligible voters in every B.C. riding.

They have around 150,000 signatures counted as of Nov. 19, or about 
half the number needed and far short of their target of 450,000 to 
provide a buffer against disqualified signatures.

"In at least half of the ridings we are struggling," Larsen said 
Tuesday, adding that means a quarter or less of the signatures have 
been gathered. "We have a long way to go."

Districts with the lowest numbers of signatures include Cariboo, Fort 
Langley, Langley, Abbotsford and Surrey-Tynehead, Larsen said.

Other areas where canvassers are doing well - either reaching their 
target or close to it - include Nelson, Creston, Vancouver's West 
End, Penticton, Kelowna, Port Alberni and the Similkameen.

"We always knew it was going to be a huge challenge going into the 
campaign," Larsen said. "There's a lot of fear out there. People 
would love to sign the petition but say they'd lose their job or 
their employer told them not to. I find that disturbing that people 
are afraid to express a political opinion."

He said the main challenge has been the sheer logistics of collecting 
so many signatures in every riding in just 90 days.

He noted 50,000 signatures came in over the past week, adding a 
continued surge in the numbers up to the deadline could still put 
them "in the ballpark."

Campaigners aim to pass the proposed Sensible Policing Act to bar 
police from spending any time or resources enforcing the federal law 
against possessing small amounts of marijuana.

A successful petition would require the B.C. government to introduce 
the pseudo-decriminalization bill in the Legislature or else put it 
to a referendum like the one that defeated the harmonized sales tax. 
The government held that referendum after Fight HST forces gathered 
705,000 petition signatures.

"Whether or not we get all the signatures we need, this campaign will 
absolutely continue," Larsen said, adding the "army" of supporters 
will push towards marijuana legalization on multiple fronts.

He said Sensible BC could stage a new petition in the months ahead 
and try again, potentially getting out of the gate faster by quickly 
re-registering the 4,000 canvassers now signed up.

"I don't think we will relaunch immediately," Larsen said, adding the 
group would take time to study what worked and what didn't in the 
event of defeat. "But almost certainly we would try again in the future."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom