Pot petition succeeds in Penticton, but fails elsewhere

Drive to trigger referendum on marijuana decriminalization fails, although organizers hope politicians still take notice of results

Jo Ann Murphy was canvassing for Sensible BC last week at the Penticton Community Centre. She was there collecting signatures on a petition to push for the decriminalization of marijuana in B.C.

Despite strong support in the South Okanagan, a campaign to decriminalize marijuana fell short across most other parts of B.C.

Sensible BC organizer Dana Larsen announced Monday his group collected 210,000 signatures on petitions.

That figure is well short of the 300,000 signatures required to possibly trigger a full referendum on decriminalizing pot possession.

“It’s a pretty remarkable accomplishment,”  said Larsen.

“We’ve definitely demonstrated a high level of organization and support for this cause. Had we been operating under the rules of pretty much any other referendum system in the world, we would have qualified to be on the ballot.”

To succeed, canvassers needed to collect the signatures of 10 per cent of eligible voters in each of B.C.’s 85 electoral districts during the 90-day campaign.

Volunteers reached that threshold in 19 ridings, including Penticton and Boundary-Similkameen.

Amanda Stewart, who led efforts here, doesn’t think attitudes towards marijuana are more permissive in this part of the province, but instead credited a strong team of 30 volunteers for the good showing.

“I’ve never felt pressure like that before,” said Stewart.

“It was a lot of work, but it was fun too. It was a real growing, learning experience.”

Stewart said volunteers collected 5,000 signatures in Penticton and 3,300 in Boundary-Similkameen, equal to about 12 and 11 per cent of eligible voters, respectively.

She allowed it was “pretty evident midway through the campaign there just wasn’t enough money and volunteers to pull it all off,” so 4,600 canvassers across B.C. instead focused on educating people about the reasons for the petition.

And although the effort failed, Stewart hopes politicians take notice of the result.

“Enough people are tired of prohibition and they want a solution,” she said.

“I’d like to actually see a political party step up to the plate now and realize the people have spoken and not make us go through all of this again.”

With files from Jeff Nagel/Black Press

 

 

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