Parties are to politics what condiments are to barbecues, but one local woman has flipped the whole formula on its head, signing up party-goers and club kids for the upcoming petition to decriminalize pot in B.C. Cindy Heemeryck finds her station being the Flashbacks hotdog cart is an excellent spot for stumping.
There’s a lot to be said for the munchies, especially if you’re a hotdog cart lady pushing a pro-marijuana petition.
And now a lot can be said about Cindy Heemeryck, one of the most successful Sensible BC campaign organizers in the province.
By night, Heemeryck mans her hotdog stand outside Flashbacks nightclub on Ellis Street; by day, she is dedicating her summer to helping change the way marijuana use is dealt with in this province.
She is also already among the most successful, if not the most successful, campaign organizers on the Sensible BC team with 3,000 email addresses on her list and 50 people physically working by her side.
“Kelowna is actually one of our strongest support bases…We’ve collected a lot of names and supporters as a result of her work,” said long-time pot advocate Dana Larsen, the public face of the campaign.
Sensible BC wants to see the provincial Police Act “changed to instruct police officers not to spend any time, money or resources on cases of simple possession of cannabis.”
Beginning in September, the campaign volunteers will call on the same legislation used to wipe out the Harmonized Sales Tax to try and secure the 400,000 signatures needed—10 per cent in every provincial riding—to force a referendum on how marijuana possession is addressed in this province.
As shocking as it is to see conservative Kelowna out front on a decidedly left-wing cause, it is not an unwitting mistake.
This is Heemeryck’s first foray into politics, yet as door-knockers go, her winning formula bares the polish of political brass.
“Time is not on our friend right now, but I plan on giving up a lot of time this summer to just go out and campaign,”she said.
Heemeryck hit her target audience perfectly when she found the first 1,000 people she signed to the early information campaign while working at the hotdog stand. She then branched out to festivals and raves, City Park and the farmers’ markets.
“I mostly target young people who go to the bar,” she said. “But I’m also heading out to events.”
She’s going to the Bushwacked Music and Arts Festival in Beaverdale and worked a Caribbean-themed event at the Rotary Arts Centre.
She’s held barbecues in her backyard and meets with organizers at coffee shops so they can all work online simultaneously.
The team’s Facebook page has the most traffic of any community-based Sensible BC effort going.
“I really want to see the marijuana laws changed. I’m tired of it being illegal my whole entire life. I think people should be able to grow it in their own homes and I don’t think the government should be able to tell adults what to do,” she explained.
In the two-hour window she had before meeting the Capital News when we called, she found a t-shirt shop and got an image the campaign is trying to have emblazoned on billboards silk-screened on the front.
Jim Pattison Outdoor has turned down the billboard business, but with committed, grassroots stumpers like Heemeryck on the team, it’s quite conceivable the pot petition could work. According to the campaign website, over 3,580 people were charged with simple possession of marijuana last year and “police spent their time on over 19,000 incidents of marijuana possession in 2010 alone.”
From medical marijuana proponents to people who like to smoke pot, and others who are just tired of watching tax dollars spent on the war on drugs, Sensible BC believes more people are on their side than one might think.
The lobby-group hired Strategic Communications to conduct polling on its behalf, securing a sample of 914 adults, statistically weighted to ensure that the sample’s gender, age, education and regional composition reflect B.C.’s population.
Some 73 per cent said they would support legalizing pot under the Sensible Policing Act, the position paper the campaign is promoting. Their first suggestion in this act amounts to the decriminalizing of cannabis, as opposed to legalizing marijuana possession.
No matter what the Criminal Code of Canada may say is the letter of the law, they would like to see the provincially-regulated Police Act instruct police officers not to bust individual users for possession.
The second part of the act calls on the federal government to repeal marijuana prohibition so that the province can legally regulate it in a manner similar to alcohol or tobacco—in other words, legalization of pot.
Just across the border, in Washington State, this is already a done deal.
The regulatory board setting up guidelines for governing the new industry is leaning toward allowing outdoor grow operations for licensed farmers, after concerns over the carbon footprint of indoor operations surfaced.
However, the federal government in Canada is actually tightening the rules, writing changes to govern Health Canada’s medical marijuana program on a more stringent basis.
Pharmacists will no longer be able to distribute pot and the regulations on who can grow the product for medical use are to be tightened.
Whether Sensible BC’s petition is successful is a worry for the future for Heemeryck, though.
Today, she is focused on arranging the road trip of speaking engagements she and her 25-year-old daughter, Kristi Heemeryck, will make in the next two months.
Having postered every community bulletin board from here to Creston, and around through Osoyoos, she’s ready to muster the energy she’s built over a lifetime of activism on the issue and pour it into summer 2013.
The petition will be available on the Sensible BC website come September; the campaign has 43,105 likes on its Facebook page.