With just two weeks left to collect signatures in a 'decriminalize marijuana' petition drive in British Columbia, organizers say that they still have a long way to go but are remaining optimistic.
Under B.C.'s ballot initiative system, organizers need 10 per cent of registered voters — in every single one of BC’s 85 electoral ridings — to sign the petition which would force the provincial government to call a referendum on the issue. That's 400,000 names and they only had 90 days to it.
Sensible B.C. Lead organizer Dana Larsen told Yahoo Canada News that so far they only have approximately 150,000 names.
"We always knew we were going to be getting most of them in the last part of the campaign. We knew this would be about building momentum. We started with only 1,400 canvassers. We've tripled that number to over 4,200 people who are registered to collect signatures," he said on Wednesday.
"In the last seven days, we got about 50,000 signatures delivered into the office which is more than any week that we've had so far.
"I've been nervous about this campaign since day one, it's a huge effort and very difficult to get on the ballot but I am very confident that our numbers are going to increase very substantially over the [remaining days]."
One of the more frustrating things for Larsen has been that some people are refusing to sign because they're worried about potential ramifications of having their name on a pot petition.
"People walk by and say 'I can't sign that, I'd lose my job' or 'I bet the RCMP would love to get their hands on that list.' Some people think they're going to somehow out themselves -- if they sign it means that they're a pot smoker or a pot grower or something," Larsen complains.
"And I just say 'remember...when the first pride parade happened. It was a big controversial thing. People were scared to be seen there. People might think I'm gay if I'm at a gay pride parade.'
"Nowadays, 90 per cent of the people at the gay pride parade are not even gay."
Just in case Larsen isn't able to get to 400,000 signatures, he says his group will try again next year or in early 2015.
"We've all learned a lot from this process. It's not an easy process. It's bureaucratically very challenging: the number of signatures, the paper work that is involved is huge. There's a reason nobody does referendums in B.C. — it's very hard," he said.
"If we do need to launch again it will be easier for us the second time around especially because we'd be able to start with all of our canvassers in place."
To date, the governing B.C. Liberals have remained relatively silent on the topic of the petition.
Federal laws govern both legalization and decriminalization so some have appropriately questioned whether the province actually has any authority in this area.
But Larsen's group argues that the province can decriminalize by asking law enforcement officials to not take any action in cases of marijuana possession by adults.
"The provinces control 'administration of justice', which includes policing and police priorities," notes the Sensible B.C. website.
"All police in B.C. operate under the authority of the BC Police Act. Directing the use of police resources through an amendment to the Police Act is entirely within provincial jurisdiction."
To find out where you can sign, check the Sensible B.C. website.
Petitions must be signed in-person before December 5.
(Photo courtesy of Dana Larsen's Facebook page)
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