B.C. marijuana petition gets green light

Activist wants to force changes to B.C. Police Act in HST-style campaign to block simple possession charges

Dana Larsen (left) finished fourth in the 2011 NDP leadership contest after MLAs Nicholas Simons and Harry Lali dropped out.

Dana Larsen (left) finished fourth in the 2011 NDP leadership contest after MLAs Nicholas Simons and Harry Lali dropped out.

VICTORIA – Elections BC has given approval in principle to marijuana activist Dana Larsen’s bid to lead a petition drive for de-criminalizing marijuana possession.

Larsen has proposed that B.C. go around the federal law with a “Sensible Policing Act” that would disallow the use of B.C. police resources to prosecute simple possession of small amounts of pot. As of Sept. 9, Larsen will be allowed to begin collecting signatures referendum similar to that used to reverse the harmonized sales tax.

Individuals and groups have until Aug. 12 to register with Elections BC to oppose the initiative, run ads for or against the petition or collect signatures.

Larsen, who was involved with the B.C. Marijuana Party before running for the leadership of the B.C. NDP in 2011, has worked for the last year to build support for what he calls Sensible BC. His organization will have 90 days from Sept. 9 to collect signatures from 10 per cent of registered provincial voters in each of B.C.’s 85 electoral districts.

If that threshold is reached, Elections BC would hold a province-wide initiative vote, likely by mail as was done to repeal the HST.

Decriminalizing pot has received mainstream support in recent years, including a narrow majority vote at the 2012 Union of B.C. Municipalities convention.

In a debate at that convention in Victoria last September, former B.C. Liberal attorney general Geoff Plant advocated for loosening marijuana laws, as has since been done in the U.S. states of Washington and Colorado.

The idea was opposed by criminologist  Darryl Plecas, who was elected B.C. Liberal MLA for  Abbotsford South in the May provincial election.

Larsen has had a colourful career, including editor of Vancouver-based Cannabis Culture magazine and co-founder of the Vancouver Seed Bank, which has sold seeds for marijuana, poppies, peyote and coca.

Larsen resigned as an NDP candidate in the 2008 federal election, after videos surfaced showing his drug use a decade earlier.

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