People heading in for an afternoon workout at the Penticton Community Centre last week also had a chance to lend strength to the campaign to decriminalize marijuana in B.C.
Jo Ann Murphy, a registered canvasser for Sensible BC, was collecting signatures there on copies of the official petition to which she has devoted nearly all of spare time for two months straight.
The community health worker said she originally intended to collect a few dozen signatures from friends to show support for medical marijuana users, but the more she learned about the subject, the more she understood “the importance of putting my face to the issue.”
“I don’t think people should be getting a criminal record for simple possession,” she said. “In my opinion, in what I’ve read and the information I’ve gathered, (marijuana) is less harmful than something like alcohol.”
With the help of Murphy and about 30 other volunteers, Sensible BC has now collected close to 3,500 signatures in the Penticton riding, according to local organizer Amanda Stewart.
The group’s aiming for 6,000 names here, which would provide a buffer over and above the 4,337 signatures required by Elections BC in this riding. The three-month campaign closes Dec. 5.
Sensible BC needs 10 per cent of eligible voters in each of B.C.’s 85 ridings to sign the petition in order to trigger a referendum on its proposed legislation that would set the stage to decriminalize marijuana possession and tax the sale of weed.
In the Penticton riding, Stewart has dispatched volunteers to staff tables at Cherry Lane Shopping Centre and the community centre, plus appear at public events like hockey games, farmers’ markets and flu clinics.
Even still, “This is such a big riding, there’s a good chance we’ve missed huge pockets of people with our public activities,” said Stewart, who operates the Valley Hemp and Import Company, one of a handful of local businesses that also have copies of the petition.
Sensible BC is hoping to decriminalize marijuana in much the same way that Colorado and Washington states are now working towards.
Last week, Colorado voters approved a plan to apply a 15 per cent excise tax plus a 10 per cent sales tax to marijuana that’s expected to raise $70 million annually when it goes into effect Jan. 1. Stewart said that’s a model her group would like to see replicated here.
“It reminds us, too, how has the States gone ahead and done this before British Columbia?” she said. “A lot of people are scratching their heads.”
For more information on signing the petition or volunteering, contact Stewart via email at a firstname.lastname@example.org.