A small cadre of volunteers began fanning out across the Nanaimo-Alberni riding Monday to begin collecting signatures on a petition calling for changes to the Police Act.
Sponsored by Sensible B.C., the petition drive is designed to redirect police in B.C. from detaining or arresting adults in possession of marijuana.
The campaign, started by Sensible B.C. director and former NDP leadership hopeful Dana Larsen, has 90 days to collect the signatures of 10 per cent of the voting population in each constituency in the province in order to trigger a referendum on the issue.
Physiotherapist Cory Pahl is the local organizer in the Parksville-Qualicum constituency and he chaired a meeting Monday night in Qualicum Beach to finalize plans for the campaign.
“In our riding we have lots of support and for the number of signatures we need to gather, we have a good team in place,” Pahl said. “We’ll be fanning out and going door-to-door setting up booths at whatever venues we can.”
Overall, he said local volunteers will need to collect about 6,000 signatures in this constituency.
Pahl said he decided to become an organizer for the petition campaign because of frustration with the current laws that make it difficult for medical marijuana users to access the medicine they need.
“I have been working in this field for almost 10 years and during that whole time I had patients who were using medical marijuana and they were always having battles with the legal and medical systems to use the medicine they find effective,” he said. “Doctors can’t prescribe it as much as they would like because if they do they get scrutinized and it’s not good for their practice.”
He said the benefits of decriminalizing marijuana are many.
“Research is showing us this is the best medicine on the planet,” he said. “If more people can use it for illness and injuries, we would be much better off as a society. It would also save money on law enforcement. I know it’s less harmful than alcohol or tobacco, but a lot of people are being punished for using it. That’s not fair, because not a lot of harm goes along with cannabis use.”
Pahl acknowledged there is some concern that decriminalizing marijuana could lead to more young people taking it up as a habit, but he said he doesn’t think this will be the case.
“Most of the canvassers in this riding are medical users,” he said.
He conceded the initiative faces an uphill struggle. Anyone who would like to sign up as a canvasser can call Pahl at 250-951-2923 or Alan Boisvert at 250-586-8802.