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Provincial petition to change marijuana laws fails, but local campaign surpasses threshold
Local organizers of a petition aimed at changing marijuana laws are happy with the campaign even though it failed to obtain enough signatures to force a provincial referendum.
Province wide the petition by Sensible BC obtained more than 200,000 signatures calling for a referendum and in the local ridings of Boundary-Similkameen and Penticton it surpassed the necessary threshold.
“Considering how things have to happen here in B.C. and the numbers we needed, we did pretty well,” said Osoyoos campaigner Heather Pinske, a 27-year-old mother who gathered signatures from people on the street.
Local organizers expect another petition drive in 2015.
“It’ll be a lot easier next time because we already have 200,000 people who have agreed with us,” she said, noting that Washington State and Colorado weren’t successful at first either but have recently passed referendums to legalize recreational pot.
B.C. also has a higher threshold to force a referendum, Pinske said.
Under B.C.’s Recall and Initiative Act, signatures of at least 10 per cent of the registered voters in each of the province’s 85 electoral districts were required and they had to be collected within a 90-day period.
Last week Chief Electoral Officer Keith Archer announced there were insufficient signatures to proceed as of the Dec. 9 deadline.
If it had been successful, the referendum would have put forward a Sensible Policing Act directing police in the province not to use police resources to enforce laws against the simple possession of cannabis.
The campaign’s goal was to aim first for decriminalization of marijuana possession and subsequently at legalization.
In order to force a referendum, the campaign needed close to 400,000 signatures.
Only 20 districts of 85 obtained enough signatures, while another five came close. Throughout the province, however, 37 districts failed to get even five per cent of needed signatures.
Pinske said signature collection in Osoyoos increased late in the campaign when she was able to get another local canvasser and when copies of the petition were available at Yore Video Store on Main Street.
Amanda Stewart, who runs a hemp shop in Penticton and organized the campaign for Boundary-Similkameen, said the riding that includes Osoyoos exceeded the necessary signatures and collected 11 per cent.
She also oversaw the successful campaign in Penticton.
“I thought that it was a good practice run,” said Stewart. “When we first started this, I had never been involved in anything of this nature. I’m not a professional volunteer organizer and I’ve never had anything to do with any referendum or election. There was a huge learning curve.”
Stewart said Boundary-Similkameen was especially challenging because of its size.
In many communities it was only possible to find one or two canvassers and some of those were people using marijuana to deal with chronic pain.
“I was blown away by the efforts I saw,” she said referring to those with illnesses. “People that normally say they should be sitting at home resting were working collecting signatures for six or eight hours once or twice a month and they were really the ones that brought the numbers in.”