B.C. petition drive to force referendum on marijuana decriminalization begins Monday

·Politics Reporter

British Columbians, get your writing utensils ready.

The petition drive to force the B.C. government to call a referendum on marijuana decriminalization officially gets underway on September 9th.

It won't be easy: Under B.C.'s ballot initiative system, 10 per cent of registered voters — in every single one of BC’s 85 electoral ridings — will have to sign the petition for the referendum to be a go. That's 400,000 names and they only have 90 days to do it.

But according to Dana Larsen — the leader of the petition campaign — the paperwork is in and certified, volunteer canvassers have been trained and his group, dubbed Sensible B.C., are ready to hit the ground running on Monday.

"We've registered well over 1,200 canvassers...and I'm looking to have over 2,000 in place by the time we get to the 9th and I think we're going to be close to this," he told Yahoo! Canada News over the holiday weekend.

"I've been getting more confident everyday. I don't think I'm overconfident. I know this is a very challenging effort and success is by no means guaranteed but it's exciting to me how many British Columbians are stepping up to get involved."

[ Related: Could Justin Trudeau be barred from entering the U.S. for pot admission? ]

Larsen's increasing confidence is partly due to some lucky breaks he received over the summer while organizing the campaign. He was very pleased to have Liberal leader Justin Trudeau shine some light upon the issue by pushing for legalization and for admitting that he smoked pot after becoming a member of Parliament.

"Justin's comments are very positive and are helping to shift the debate quite a bit," Larsen said.

"It makes it easier for other politicians to come out and say similar things."

Larsen said that his group has also received support from the other opposition parties.

"[NDP leader Thomas Mulcair] signed our Sensible B.C. banner," he said.

"It's also been signed by Green Party leader Elizabeth May and several other MPs."

[ Related: Canadian politicians are awfully casual about history with marijuana ]

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 starting on Monday.

Petitions must be signed in-person.

(Photo courtesy of sensible.ca)

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