The Coast made their quota, but whether the rest of the province will get 10 per cent of constituents to sign a petition to decriminalize marijuana possession is yet to be seen.
Sensible B.C. has until Dec. 9 to get enough signatures from British Columbians to push for a referendum on the issue; however, some communities are far from reaching the 10 per cent target needed to trigger a referendum.
“The Lower Mainland, for example, generally is a real challenge, just by virtue of the number of people,” said local Sensible B.C. campaign organizer Paul Renaud.
“In Surrey alone I guess there’s in the neighbourhood of 300,000 voters, which means 30,000 signatures are required in Surrey alone.”
In the Coast riding (which includes Powell River) a total of 3,782 signatures were needed. Between Langdale and Egmont 3,200 signatures were gathered by the end of November.
The last Renaud heard from Powell River they had about 1,000 signatures, which puts the riding well over the 10 per cent target.
Many other rural communities also gathered enough signatures before the end of November, so canvassing efforts are now being focused in urban areas like the Lower Mainland.
Despite the stepped up canvassing, Renaud is skeptical the initiative will succeed this time around.
“It’s doubtful that it will be enough,” he said.
Even Sensible B.C. leader Dana Larsen wasn’t optimistic about the campaign this week, saying he’s “definitely thinking about trying again,” if the endeavour fails.
Sensible B.C. is calling upon the B.C. government to pass a Sensible Policing Act that would prohibit police from using their time or resources to arrest users of marijuana.
In order to have the act considered, 10 per cent of British Columbians (more than 400,000 people) must sign a petition forcing the government to bring the issue to referendum next year.
The process is similar to what was rolled out to fight the harmonized sales tax.
On the Sunshine Coast (between Egmont and Langdale) a total of 35 canvassers set up booths in public places, answered questions and gathered signatures between the start of the campaign on Sept. 9 and the end of November.
Renaud said for the most part canvassers were treated well and the public was supportive.
“While canvassing we all heard many times over how marijuana prohibition has been a complete failure of a public policy while generating disrespect for law enforcement and enriching gangsters,” Renaud said. “In addition, we all heard many stories of medical use, particularly among elders, and for a wide variety of ailments and in myriad forms, including smoking and vaporizing, edibles, tinctures, oils and ointments.”
Some members of the public were not receptive to the canvassers, however.
“A gratifyingly small number were actually angry or abusive to us and while they may rant about ‘under-achieving drug addicts,’ we are cognizant of the irony and hypocrisy that alcohol, which causes so many harms, is so tolerated and widely available,” Renaud said.
If the Sensible B.C. campaign fails and another call for canvassers comes in the future, Renaud is confident most of the Coast volunteers will return.
“We all felt pretty strongly about what we were doing, that it was worthwhile and that it is possible,” he said.
Once all of the signed forms have been handed into the government on Dec. 9, Elections B.C. will have 42 days to report the findings, but its likely preliminary results will be announced much sooner on the Sensible B.C. website at www.sensiblebc.ca.