PORT McNEILL—Dana Larsen was unable to secure the NDP leadership as a platform to reform marijuana prohibition laws. But he’s doing everything he can from the outside to see cannabis decriminalized in British Columbia in the next few years.
“I’ve been working on this a long time, and I never thought, ‘We can legalize this in B.C. in next few years,” Larson said Sunday during one of two North Island stops on a provincewide tour to gather support for a petition drive to put a referendum on the ballot next year. “I always thought I’ll be lucky if I’m alive when this happens. But everything seems to have clicked in the last couple years.”
Larsen, who helped form the Canadian Marijuana Party and the B.C. Marijuana Party in 2000-01 before joining the B.C. New Democratic Party in 2003, failed in a 2011 bid for the provincial NDP leadership job.
He is currently touring B.C. with the Sensible BC campaign, with a particular emphasis on rural areas. The tour is to promote the Sensible Policing Act in advance of a planned petition drive in September to get the cannabis decriminalization referendum on the ballot in 2014.
He held one meeting Saturday in Port Hardy before meeting with a small group at Chilton Regional Arena in Port McNeill the following day.
“We filed the law in September with Elections BC,” Larsen said. “They agreed this law is valid, which already is a big victory because when Adrian (Dix) and Christie (Clark) say, ‘No, it’s the federal government’s jurisdiction; we’re helpless,’ we say, ‘No, Elections BC, your own governnment lawyers said this is a valid law. We can pass it today.’
“We don’t have to have a referendum. The referendum is just because (politicians) are gonna say, ‘No.'”
The Sensible Policing Act would essentially call for provincial law enforcement to ignore the bulk of federal laws prohibiting possession and personal use of marijuana.
“The law tells police under the act to spend no more time or resources on searching, seizing, detaining or arresting anybody on possession of cannabis,” Larsen said.
Eventually, Larsen said, he hopes to work toward a further legalization including regulations on growing, selling, distribution and taxation.
The purpose of Larsen’s current tour is to both inform the public and to gather volunteers or “captains” in each region to begin registering people that can be called to sign the referendum petition when it is re-submitted to Elections BC this September.
Larsen pointed out 10 per cent of registered voters in each of British Columbia’s 85 electoral districts must sign to get the referendum on the ballot for a 2014 referendum election.
“To get a referendum on the ballot is difficult,” he said. “We have to do it in a 90-day period; we have only three months to get those signatures.”
Larsen has been heartened by endorsements from the Union of B.C. Municipalities last August and subsequent endorsements by the Vancouver Sun and several Black Press publications in B.C., along with polls that show majorities of B.C. citizens in favour of taxing an regulating use of cannabis and opposing criminal records for its possession.
In November, the U.S. states of Washington and Colorado each passed referendums to decriminalize marijuana, and Massachussets became the 18th U.S. state to approve the use of medical marijuana.
“If Washington and Colorado can do it, then surely we can,” said Larsen. “We should have done it first.”
To register or for more information, visit www.sensiblebc.ca.