Marijuana referendum campaign seeks signatures in Langley

A campaign to decriminalize marijuana through a citizen initiative kicked off in Langley Sunday.

Jay Brown talks with Randy Caine

Jay Brown talks with Randy Caine

The campaign to decriminalize possession of marijuana rolled into Langley on Sunday afternoon with the arrival of the Sensible B.C. “Cannabus” and campaign director Dana Larsen.

The bus pulled into the parking lot of the ICBC Driver Services office at Logan Avenue and 203 Street, where it was greeted by local organizer Randy Caine, who had already set up a table to collect signatures and sign up canvassers.

Larsen said he was “cautiously optimistic” the campaign will get the votes it needs by Dec. 5. To succeed, it needs 10 per cent of registered voters to sign the petition in every one of B.C.’s 85 electoral districts, or about 400,000 signatures.

“It’s certainly doable,” Larsen told The Times.

“Where we’re at right now is about where we wanted to be. It’s not a slam-dunk or guarantee by any means, but things are looking pretty good.”

Caine, the organizer for both the Langley and Fort Langley/Aldergrove ridings, said he was “incredibly optimistic” the campaign will gather enough signatures to get a province-wide vote on the Sensible B.C. proposal to end criminal prosecution for possessing small amounts of marijuana.

He said the Langley location, a site that is used for motor vehicle testing on weekdays, was chosen because it was a well-travelled area and a public place. He is planning to seek signatures there on a daily basis.

Caine said there were “many frowns” when he advised the manager of the ICBC office on Friday, but he believes the campaign is within its rights.

“I’m not here to ask permission,” Caine said.

The proposed B.C. law was inspired by a Seattle initiative, passed 11 years ago, that instructed law enforcement officers in the U.S. state to make marijuana “the lowest policing priority.”

Sensible B.C. wants an amendment to the Police Act that would instruct officers not to spend “any time, money or resources on cases of simple possession of cannabis.”

It would be called the Sensible Policing Act, and would, according to the campaign website, “effectively decriminalize the possession of cannabis in B.C., while leaving the rest of the laws in place.”

“It’s less about drugs than reallocating funding for the police,” Caine said.

“Do we want to [keep spending] $25 million a year on simple possession charges?”

If Sensible B.C. succeeds in forcing a vote, it would only be the second time that such a campaign has succeeded.

The first time the law was successfully used was in August of 2011, when HST opponents forced a vote that got rid of the much-hated new tax.

The HST was replaced with the former provincial sales tax in April.