The Sensible B.C. petition campaign to decriminalize marijuana in the province kicks off Monday and the local organizer believes that the Kootenay West riding has a good chance of gathering its share of necessary signatures to change provincial law.
“You know our area is a good area for it,” Susan Yurychuk, Kootenay West campaign organizer, said from her home in the Slocan Valley.
“My challenge with the Kootenays is that everybody thinks we’re a shoe-in here and they may not come out.”
As part of the Elections B.C. initiative process the Sensible B.C. group has 90 days, as of the official start date, for the petition to gather signatures from 10 per cent of the population in each of the province’s 85 electoral districts.
Reaching that mark would compel the provincial government to hold a province-wide vote to pass the group’s “Sensible Policing Act” in September of 2014.
Although the initiative process only calls for 10 per cent, Yurychuk is pushing for 15 per cent in this area to ensure a safe margin.
“We need 4,694 signatures in our district,” Yurychuk said.
“We need canvassers even if it’s just to collect 10 signatures. Many hands make light work.”
Yurychuk said she believes that the legislative change is needed in British Columbia for many reasons but had specific priorities in mind.
“We’re spending all this money on policing and courts and we have schools closing, there’s something wrong with that,” she said. “And I don’t think marijuana should be available to kids but right now there’s no realistic education about it because it’s all in the closet and that just breeds terrible things.”
Provincial organizer for Sensible B.C., Dana Larsen, said that he believes that controlling access to marijuana is a big part of what the whole campaign is about.
“Anybody who is concerned about young people should support this campaign,” Larsen said from his Vancouver office. “It’s not about ‘what do we do to eliminate it’ it’s about ‘how do we reduce harm’ and that comes from legalization and regulation. Regulations and age limits, that’s what we want with this campaign.”
The West Kootenay region has developed a somewhat notorious reputation in the province for the cultivation and use of marijuana over the years and Larsen doesn’t feel a pressing need to visit the area to promote the cause but doesn’t rule out a campaign stop in the future.
“I was there last fall and again in the spring but the local team has a good handle on things,” said Larsen. “We’ll see if we get out to the Kootenays again but if we don’t it means things are going well and we don’t need to bring in more people.”
Unlike the 2011 initiative to eliminate the HST, which was the first of nine initiatives to pass since the process became legislated in 1995, the proposed Initiative to Amend the Police Act has no official opposition.
“No one applied to Elections B.C. as an opponent of the initiative and the deadline was August 12,” said Andrew Watson, communications coordinator for Elections B.C. “There still could be advertising against the campaign but they would have to register with us as an opponent advertiser.”
In the Kootenay West electoral district canvassers are already set for many areas but local organizer, Yurychuk, says they’re looking for more people to collect signatures in a number of communities.
“We still need people in Trail, Rossland, Fruitvale, Montrose, Warfield, and other places throughout the riding,” she said. “Anyone interested can go to the Sensible B.C. website to register because they have to be registered with Elections B.C.”