It is not about “if” but “how” the law should be changed said well-known marijuana activist Dana Larsen while speaking at Cariboo Regional District library Nov. 15.
In Washington and Colorado, where votes were recently passed to legalize cannabis at the state level, the governors were against the laws and both said it shouldn’t be done, he explained.
“Now they are in the position of having to force and create a system that they actually campaigned against having in there in the first place.”
Larsen said B.C. is the only province with the ballot-initiative system, the only province where people can do the same thing as they do in many American states. People can sign up, get popular support, and impose a law upon the government, which it really has to pass.
“It is still a difficult hill to climb because you have to get 10 per cent of the registered voters in every one of the provinces 85 electoral districts to sign on to your ballot initiative in a three month period.”
Working with a lawyer, Larsen designed a law he thinks will work — the Sensible Policing Act.
The act would direct the police in B.C. to stop searching, seizing or arresting anybody for simple possession of cannabis.
“Provinces have jurisdiction over policing and the administration of criminal justice so even though this is a federal law and we cannot change that federal law as a province; the attorney general has the power and the responsibility to instruct the police on what their priorities should be, where they should focus their resources,” Larsen explained.
He used the long-gun registry as an example of how eight provinces said they were not going to enforce the long gun registry, adding: “provinces have a lot of power to make these changes.”
The second part of the act prohibits possession by minors in the same way as alcohol, while the
third part calls on the federal government to let B.C. tax and regulate cannabis.
“We have to bring this industry into the sunlight and regulate it so it’s safe for everyone involved. We would mandate the attorney general of B.C. to write the federal government to change the laws. Either remove cannabis from the Controlled Drug and Substances Act or just give B.C. an exemption.”
In addition, a provincial commission would determine the laws and rules around legal cannabis — selling, growing, age limits, exporting, and tax rates, the same things that occur around alcohol.
“We want the province to figure out all of this so that when the federal law changes we’re ready to implement something immediately.”
Larsen is gathering signatures in anticipation of a referendum in September 2014 and
over the next 10 months will continue to tour the province, returning to Williams Lake in the spring with a panel. In September 2013, SensibleBC will start the clock with Elections BC and refile a legislation.
“By then I hope to have 4,000 people registered all around the province, well over 10 per cent, with thousands of volunteers in place so that when we say “go” they will already know who the people are that said they will sign and they will go out and get those signatures.”
When the ballot is cast it will be the “happiest” ballot he’s ever cast in his life, Larsen said.