Employee Kim Wall of LockWorks on Main Street holds some of the material including a clipboard with the petitions containing the signatures of people who would like the government to decriminalize cannabis.

Employee Kim Wall of LockWorks on Main Street holds some of the material including a clipboard with the petitions containing the signatures of people who would like the government to decriminalize cannabis.

Penticton businesses jump on marijuana petition

Push is on to collect signatures necessary to trigger B.C.-wide referendum on decriminalization

People from all walks of life have taken an interest in the province-wide petition to decriminalize marijuana, according to a campaign volunteer in Penticton.

“I’ve had a uniformed firefighter and I’ve had older gentlemen and ladies who are in it for the medical benefits,” said Kim Wall, an employee at LockWorks, where people can sign the petition during regular business hours.

“I even actually had a group of high school students come in wondering what they can do to help the campaign, even though they’re not registered voters or legally able to vote yet,” she said.

Sensible BC organized the petition to win support for its proposed amendments to the provincial Police Act that would forbid officers from applying any resources towards arresting people for marijuana possession.

The group, which has been authorized by Elections BC, needs to collect signatures from 10 per cent of eligible voters in each of the province’s 85 ridings to trigger a full referendum or a vote in the legislature on the issue.

Sensible BC’s proposed legislative changes also call on the federal government to legalize marijuana or grant an exemption for B.C. to set up its own system to regulate the sale and use of pot.

The campaign kicked off Sept. 9 and organizers have just 90 days to collect the required signatures. The magic number in the Penticton riding is 4,337, while a total of about 318,000 signatures are needed across B.C.

Amanda Stewart, the Sensible BC riding co-ordinator for Penticton, said she’s optimistic the thresholds will be met because decriminalization of marijuana appeals to more than just recreational pot smokers.

“Even people that aren’t pro-cannabis are pro-common sense. Why should we keep using police resources to keep putting these people in jail or keep giving these people criminal records?” she said of those busted for marijuana possession.

“I have a young son and I would hate for him or any of his friends to get charged for possession and limit their employment chances, their chances for travelling.

“That’s actually one of my biggest motivators, kids.”

So far, Stewart has about 40 volunteers on board and is “constantly” looking for more. She said campaigners tend to be over 50 years old and have so far met with strong support.“About 10 per cent of the time people will say, ’No, I’m not interested in signing the petition,’ but we don’t really see much hate,” said Stewart, who operates the Valley Hemp and Import Company, where the petition is also available.

Wall said she and LockWorks jumped on the wagon because decriminalization of marijuana could be a plus for people in her industry, since  locksmiths are regulated by the provincial government and subject to criminal record checks.

“It’s something that could dramatically affect my employment if I was ever busted for (marijuana possession), so it’s definitely something that we’re passionate about,” she explained.

Since the campaign began, about 20 people have signed her copy of the petition, said Wall, adding she is available during regular business hours to talk about the initiative.

“We’re very open to conversations and discussions with anybody who has questions about why somebody in our trade would be taking this kind of a stance,” she said.

Petitions are also available at ServiceMaster and at a table at the farmers’ market on Saturdays.

To volunteer for the campaign or for more information, contact Stewart by email at astewart@img.ca or visit www.sensiblebc.ca.


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