Seeking signatures for a vote

Dana Larsen and his marijuana referendum tour stops in Parksville

Lasqueti Island resident Kim West can legally use marijuana to treat his pain, but that’s not why he attended Dana Larsen’s marijuana referendum tour in Parksville on Friday.

“What really got me out of bed and over here, it’s the mandatory sentencing, it’s total bull,” he said. “The wasted costs — the court costs, the policing costs — and just to think that my children could go to jail because they have a joint. That’s stupid.”

West was among a small group that gathered at Smitty’s Restaurant in Parksville to greet Larsen on his tour, which is making 15 Vancouver Island and Sunshine Coast stops in six days. Larsen is promoting a campaign to hold a marijuana referendum next year to decriminalize the drug. He said he’s hoping to attract canvassers to help collect signatures, starting Sept. 9, from 10 per cent of the registered voters in every electoral district, within 90 days. The HST referendum campaign is the only one ever to succeed in getting enough signatures to force a vote.

The legislation is called the Sensible Policing Act, which would stop B.C. police from making searches or arrests for the possession of marijuana by adults. The Act wouldn’t impact any of the laws around trafficking, possession for the purposes of trafficking, or cultivation. The Act would also take initial steps toward legalization, calling on the federal government to repeal marijuana prohibition so pot could be regulated and taxed in B.C.

Larsen said that possession charges have more than doubled in the last six years in B.C. and that the province’s police spent about twice as much time and money as the national average dealing with marijuana possession.

“I think that marijuana and drug-law reform is one of the most important social issues of our time,” he said.

Larsen said it is the right time for B.C. to make a change. It’s only a matter of time before places “begin to break,” he said, starting with decriminalization and then legalization. It’s already started in Colorado and Washington, he said.

West said he switched to marijuana from his morphine prescription to treat pain surrounding his protruding vertebrae. He finds there are no residual effects like stomach pain, teeth grinding and mood swings when he uses marijuana. The stigma surrounding pot use over the years has resulted in many people with pain not considering marijuana, he said. And a new trend, juicing raw cannabis, can have big health benefits without the psychoactive effect, he said.