Keep your hands off my weed

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Supporters of cannabis decriminalization have until Dec. 5 to collect signatures for the “Sensible B.C.” petition from registered voters. The petition calls for a provincial referendum in 2014. The referendum would decide whether to decriminalize simple possession and use of cannabis by adults. The campaign is led by Dana Larsen, a cannabis decriminalization and legalization activist of the last 20 years.

To hold a referendum (wherein registered voters can vote directly for or against a particular proposal) next year, Sensible B.C.’s petition campaign needs to collect signatures from at least 10 per cent of B.C. voters registered as of Sept. 9, 2013, including 10 per cent of those registered in each of the province’s 85 ridings. If around 400 000 registered voters sign the petition by Dec. 5, the provincial government can be lobbied to hold a referendum next year. Voters would be asked whether they support the Sensible Policing Act.

Under the Federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, simple possession of cannabis (30 grams or less) may be prosecuted with a maximum sentence of imprisonment of six months and/or a fine up to $1 000. The Sensible Policing Act sets out to amend the B.C. Police Act by disallowing use of provincial police resources to arrest and charge adults for simple possession and use of cannabis. Additionally, the Act would formally request that the Federal Government reconsider its position on cannabis, establish a Provincial Commission to develop legal regulations for production and use, and recommend treating minors charged with possession of cannabis similar to minors in possession of alcohol.

Last year, people in Washington and Colorado voted in two separate referenda to decriminalize cannabis, with both states’ voters weighing in 55 per cent in favour of decriminalization. B.C. should hold a similar referendum. Currently in Canada and B.C., the Conservative Party under Stephen Harper has repeatedly curtailed political efforts towards decriminalization; Stephen Harper—in no uncertain terms—has stated his opposition to decriminalization as well legalization. A June 2012 poll by Ipsos Reid demonstrated that approximately 65 per cent of Canadians are in favour of cannabis decriminalization. Letting the voting public decide if simple possession of cannabis should be a criminal offence is the sensible thing to do.

According to Sensible B.C.’s website, B.C. currently spends approximately $10 million a year on policing and court costs to enforce criminalization, and cannabis possession charges have doubled between 2005 and 2011. Those resources should be used instead on educating youth about the substance’s health effects. Criminalization also increases the sale price of cannabis, which arguably promotes gang crime and violence at home and abroad. Furthermore, a criminal record associated with small possession of cannabis can hurt a person’s job prospects. An alarming article from hempology.ca declared that the new Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) will increase the cost of cannabis and decrease access for medicinal users by forcing licenced growers to adhere to stringent prerequisites.

The evidence that I’ve reviewed indicates that decriminalization and legal regulation will provide tax revenue in addition to decreasing violence and black market share of cannabis. Retail market value of cannabis in B.C. is projected at $500 million annually. Additionally, if cannabis were taxed and regulated in a manner similar to tobacco, the province could potentially see $450 million in additional tax revenue.

For more information, please visit sensiblebc.ca. To get in contact with Sensible B.C. please email: volunteer@sensiblebc.ca, call 604-343-4684, or like on Facebook.

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