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Pot petition goes up in smoke

Sensible BC
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Sensible BC’s signature collecting campaign may have gone to pot, but organizer Dana Larsen is not taking this as a defeat.

Sensible BC’s signature collecting campaign may have gone to pot, but organizers are not taking this as a defeat.

“This actually leaves the marijuana reform movement in British Columbia in a stronger place than before we started,” said Sensible BC organizer Dana Larsen. “We’re going to continue to work on this and you can be sure that we’ll be back on another signature gathering effort.”

Just over 200,000 signatures were delivered to Elections BC Monday, Dec. 9, approximately 100,000 fewer than required to meet the standard set out in the Recall and Initiative Act.

Chief electoral officer Keith Archer said that the act requires the signature of at least 10 per cent of the registered voters in each of the province’s 85 electoral districts.

“The proponent has not submitted sufficient signatures on the petition sheets; therefore, our office has determined that this petition does not meet the requirements of the act and is unsuccessful,” wrote Archer in a media release.

In many rural districts, the campaign’s 4,460 canvassers were able to collect the required percentage of signatures. The required 3,782 signatures for the Powell River - Sunshine Coast riding were collected by the end of November, Larsen said. Between Langdale and Egmont, 3,200 signatures were gathered, with Powell River adding about 1,000 more.

Some districts were more of a challenge, said Lower Coast Sensible BC campaign organizer Paul Renaud. “The Lower Mainland, for example, generally is a real challenge just by the virtue of the number of people,” he said. “In Surrey alone I guess there’s in the neighbourhood of 300,000 voters which means 30,000 signatures are required.”

Larsen said that as rural districts were completed, the focus shifted to collecting signatures in the province’s urban neighbourhoods and conducting targeted phone campaigns.

“Some parts of the province have more support for this issue than others, but there is a majority in British Columbia,” Larsen said. “Logistically there are challenges with just having enough bodies out there.”

Larsen said that one factor in the result was a slow beginning despite having tripled the number of canvassers from its September start.

“A lot of them came when we were already half-way through,” he said. “If we had had more momentum at the beginning we would have been able to do better. It just took a while.”

Despite not meeting the required number of signatures, the movement to decriminalize marijuana has been moved forward, Larsen said. “We’ve all learned a lot about how the process works, and we’re a lot stronger now than we were,” he said. “Nothing is stopping us from doing this again and, in fact, I think we would do better each time around.”

— With files from Coast Reporter


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