Pot referendum push appears to go up in smoke in Central Okanagan

There may be enough people in Premier Christy Clark's Westside-Kelowna riding who want a vote on easing police enforcement of marijuana possession laws in B.C., but the same can't be said for the other two Central Okanagan provincial ridings.

As the clock ticked down to Sensible BC's self-imposed deadline of 5 p.m. Wednesday to gather signatures of 10 per cent of all eligible voters in Kelowna-Lake Country and Kelowna-Mission, it appeared clear the attempt to force a referendum on the issue would fail.

Despite a last minute surge that added close to 200 names to the Kelowna-Lake Country tally in the last few days, local campaign organizer Cindy Heemeryk said just 3,200 signatures had been collected as of 2 p.m. Wednesday, well short of the 4,495 needed. In Kelowna-Mission, canvassers had collected just over 50 per cent of the 4,411 signatures needed.

Last Friday, when local organizers presented the required number of signatures for Clark's riding to Sensible BC leader Dana Larsen, Larsen called it a symbolic milestone.

But he already sounding like a man who knew the campaign was not going to reach its goal. He said another attempt would be made sooner rather than later.

In addition to failing to reach its goal here, Sensible BC canvassers have also had problems collecting the required number of signatures in the Fraser Valley and the Cariboo.

Under the requirements of the B.C. referendum law, the group had 90 days to collect the signatures of 10 per cent of eligible voters in every one of B.C.'s 85 provincial ridings. If the bid failed in any one riding,the entire attempt to have the referendum held failed.

Heemeryk said Wednesday afternoon she expected the final figures for the three local ridings would be known after 7 p.m. Wednesday night.

While the 90-day deadline for turning completed petitions in to Elections B.C. is Dec. 8, Sensible BC have itself a deadline of Dec. 4 in order to have time to gather the petition forms and get them to Victoria.

Heemeryk said while technically local organizers and canvassers held three more days, she did not think the collection period would be extended here.

Despite that, she said locally there will be events planned by Sensible BC for January to keep the issue of "healthy" thinking about cannabis front of mind.

And she reiterated the desire to try another referendum petition campaign sooner rather than later.

But, she added, that decision would not be made here.

"That will likely be made down in Vancouver (at Sensible BC headquarters)," she said.

"We learned a lot from this campaign, lessons we can use next time."





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