Sensible BC leader Dana Larsen (left) accepts petition signatures of Westside-Kelowna residents from area campaign organizer Cindy Heemeryk (right) Thursday in Kelowna.

Sensible BC leader Dana Larsen (left) accepts petition signatures of Westside-Kelowna residents from area campaign organizer Cindy Heemeryk (right) Thursday in Kelowna.

Pot petition gets required support in premier’s Westside-Kelowna riding

Support for a province-wide petition to change B.C.'s marijuana possession law proving harder to find in two other Kelowna-area ridings.

Pot proponent Dana Larsen says he hopes Premier Christy Clark, as someone who has all but admitted smoking marijuana in the past, will heed the wishes of her constituents who have signed his group’s petition calling for a change to marijuana laws in B.C.

Larsen was handed the petition from Clark’s Westside-Kelowna riding Thursday afternoon at a news conference downtown. More than 4,600 signatures on it, more than the 10 per cent of registered voters signatures required as part of a provincial campaign to force a referendum on the issue of police enforcement of BC pot possession laws.

Earlier in the day, local campaign spokesman Mark Conlin said while the collection of names in Kelowna-Lake Country and Kelowna-Mission is proving difficult, organizers here were delighted to surpass the number needed in Clark’s riding.

“We’re very, very pleased,” he said. “Having the premier’s riding sends a message.”

Under the rules governing B.C. referendums, Sensible B.C. has 90 days to collect the signatures of at least 10 per cent of registered voters in all 85 ridings in the province. The deadline is Dec. 9 but Sensible BC is aiming to have all campaigns wrapped up by Dec. 4.

Larsen said there have been challenges in places like the Fraser Valley and the Cariboo but with two weeks to go, his group is not giving up.

If the campaign is not successful, however, he said Sensible BC will attempt it again “sooner rather than later.”

Sensible BC wants the government to either hold a referendum on stopping the use of police resources in B.C. to enforce the prohibition on small amounts of marijuana for personal use and start talking to the federal government about decriminalization of the drug—or to do both without holding a vote.

It is collecting signatures under the strict guidelines of B.C.’s recall and referendum law.

In B.C., the only successful campaign under the law was the one that led to the repeal of the Harmonized Sales Tax.

With the campaign now wrapped up in Westside-Kelowna, gathering signatures in both Kelowna-Lake Country and Kelowna-Mission will be the focus for the 188 local canvassers, said area campaign organizer Cindy Heemeryk.

So far only 2,000 signatures, out of the required 4,511, have been gathered in Kelowna-Mission and 3,000, out of the required 4,495, have been collected in Kelowna-Lake Country.

“It’s going to be tough in (Kelowna-) Mission,” said Conlin earlier in the day.

But, he added, canvassers have noticed a marked improvement in the collection numbers now that they are going door to door.

He said in retrospect , door-to-door collection should have started earlier, adding people appear to want canvassers to come to them, as opposed to canvassers being at events around town and expecting the public to seek them out.

But Larsen defended the strategy of being at public events, saying it raised the campaign’s profile in the beginning.

Meanwhile, the provincial government has refused to support the Sensible BC’s campaign until there are changes made to federal laws. Campaigners point out that part of what they are asking for is for Victoria to start talking to Ottawa about changes to federal marijuana possession law enforcement.

The Sensible BC campaign comes after U.S. voters in Washington State and Colorado voted to legalize marijuana last year.


Kelowna Capital News