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Central Okanagan pot petition proponents say they are one-third of the way there
Local proponents of a B.C.-wide petition to decriminalize marijuana possession say they have signed up one-third of the 16,000 registered voters they need in the three Central Okanagan's three provincial ridings to help prompt a referendum on the issue.
Mark Conlin, local spokesman for Sensible B.C., which is running the petition drive under B.C.'s referendum and recall law, described the collection effort here, at the one-third mark of the 30-day campaign, as "right on track."
"There is no sense of panic here," said Conlin, adding his group is aiming to collect the signatures of 20,000 registered voters to make sure it more than meets the requirement of 10 per cent in each B.C. riding.
Conlin said with the Dec. 8 deadline still two months way, response to the petition has been, for the most part, well received by the public.
He said while there have been some who respond negatively, for the most part those who sign are happy to do so, even if they do not use marijuana.
If the petition—similar to one that led to the referendum that killed the Harmonized Sales Tax in B.C— is successful, it would prompt the government to either agree to hold a province-wide referendum or put that decision to a vote in the B.C. Legislature.
Sensible B.C.'s two-part request for the proposed referendum would be for the B.C. government to instruct the police in this province not to prosecute individuals for possession of small amounts of marijuana (under one ounce) if it is for personal use and to start negotiating with the federal government to legalize marijuana use in Canada. It would not change current prohibitions about drug use by drivers or using pot in public, said Conlin.
He added the first part would be similar to what 16 states in the U.S. currently do. In addition, two states, Colorado and Washington, have legalized marijuana.
Conlin said the pot petition proponents learned from organizers of the HST petition and have used many of the same tactics to gather support, including starting early to gauge support, even before the official 90-day signature collection period.
He said he is confident this area will meet the 10 per cent requirement in each of the three local ridings - Kelowna-Mission, Kelowna-Lake Country and Westside-Kelowna.
Westside-Kelowna, where he is the co-ordinator of the Sensible B.C. campaign, is represented in the B.C. Legislature by Premier Christy Clark.
The government has not said what it will do if the petition campaign is successful and in the past has said the issue of marijuana possession is a federal matter because Ottawa, not Victoria, has jurisdiction over the Criminal Code.
Despite that, Conlin said the campaign is being conducted in what he called a "professional" manner in order to get businesses, public institutions and the general public onside. However, it has yet to be allowed on the Okanagan College campus or at Kelowna General Hospital.
But there are several permanent signature collection sites and a "roving" collection site here. And there is a plan to start a second roving collection site.
The permanent sites include The Grateful Fed restaurant on Bernard Avenue, local Hemp City outlets in Kelowna and West Kelowna, Rosie's Grape Stomp and Sun City Vapors.
There are currently 142 canvassers working on the campaign throughout the three local ridings, up from the 100 who started the campaign here one month ago.