Happy Cannabis Day: B.C. group ramps-up petition drive to decriminalize marijuana

Sensible BC signWho says 'potheads' are lazy?

In British Columbia, marijuana advocates have taken on a huge initiative. Under B.C.'s ballot initiative system, Sensible B.C. is trying to force the province to call a referendum on the 'decriminalization' of marijuana.

It won't be easy: The legislation requires that the non-profit group get 10 per cent of registered voters — in every single one of BC’s 85 ridings — to sign their petition. That's 400,000 names and they only have 90 days to do it between September and November of this year.

Dana Larsen, Director of the Sensible BC campaign, says his group will be out in full force on Monday — 'Cannabis Day' — recruiting volunteers and spreading the word. (Yes you read right — in B.C. pot smokers have adopted Canada Day as their own dubbing it Cannabis Day.)

"What we're really trying to do is build up a lot of volunteers and canvassers so when we come to September we have a big head start — so that we've got a lot of people ready to gather signatures and a high level of awareness out there," he told Yahoo! Canada News.

"The odds are probably against us but we have had a lot success since we've launched this campaign.

"We did some of our own polling in March. We found that 70 per cent of British Columbians support our legislation. But more importantly there was a majority among every political group."

Federal laws govern both legalization and decriminalization. But Larsen's idea of 'decriminalization' includes the adoption of the "Sensible B.C. Policing Act", whereby the province would ask 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."

Larsen claims that contrary to common refrain, police aren't ignoring marijuana possession: He notes that possession charges in B.C. have actually doubled in the past six years.

[ Related: New poll finds majority of Canadians and Americans support marijuana legalization ]

Jodie Emery — wife of imprisoned marijuana activist Marc Emery — is one of the organizers of the Vancouver Art Gallery Cannabis Day event which is expected to attract more than 10,000 people. She says that support for legalization and decriminalization is at an all-time high across the country.

"We've reached a tipping point in recent years; the tireless activism from decades past have resulted in so much education and awareness that serious advocacy is now coming from non-pot using individuals, such as lawyers, mayors, premiers, health officers, police, judges and other experts who have seen the harm and cost of prohibition," she told Yahoo! Canada News.

"These new advocates are able to explain to the general public —without any perceived self-interest or gain — that it's safer for society at large if we legalize marijuana, rather than continue using the same failed, expensive, deadly approach of criminal law, criminal gangs, policing, courts and prisons. The people are on our side, and so is the science and all factual evidence.

"It's Harper and the Conservatives and police lobbyists who maintain the destructive prohibition laws."

[ Related: Why it’s time to legalize marijuana ]

Sensible B.C. will be submitting their initial 'paperwork' to the provincial government later this week.

If you wish to support their campaign, you can do so here.

Where the federal parties stand on marijuana:

Last year, after Colorado and Washington became the first two American states to vote in favour of initiatives to legalize marijuana, Prime Minister Harper said he "has no intention of opening the issue here."

According to CBC News, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair doesn't believe anyone should go to jail for possessing a small amount of marijuana.

And, during the Liberal leadership campaign, Justin Trudeau said that he supports decriminalization and would look at legalization.

(Photo courtesy of sensible.ca)

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