Sensible BC director Dana Larsen says he remains optimistic despite a slow start to the group's marijuana reform petition.

Marijuana petitioners off target at 30-day mark

Sensible BC predicts slow sign-up start will accelerate but remains far behind Fight HST pace

Pot reformers have fallen short of their sign-up target for the first third of their campaign to force a provincial referendum on marijuana enforcement.

Sensible BC spokesman Dana Larsen said the campaign had 65,000 signatures as of Oct. 9 – 15,000 less than their aim of 80,000 by the 30-day mark of the 90-day petition drive.

“We’re a little bit behind the target we set,” Larsen said, adding getting canvassers officially registered has proven more onerous than expected.

But he remains confident the campaign can succeed in getting the signatures of 10 per cent of eligible voters in every B.C. district.

That would take 300,000 signatures in total, but Larsen said the aim is for 450,000 or 15 per cent in each riding to provide a buffer against signatures that are declared invalid.

The campaign aims to pass legislation that would bar police from spending any time or resources enforcing the federal law against possessing small amounts of marijuana.

Its goal is to use that as a starting point to work towards broader cannabis legalization.

Defeat in any single district means the petition campaign fails.

And even if it succeeds, a referendum is not automatic – the Legislature could introduce the proposed Sensible Policing Act but not put it to a vote.

If it was sent to another referendum it could be non-binding – the HST referendum after a successful Fight HST petition was binding only because Premier Gordon Campbell declared it so.

Fight HST also had many more signatures at their 30-day mark – more than 300,000 – and wrapped up with 705,000.

“They got a lot more than they actually needed,” Larsen said. “They could have done it with less.”

Larsen said canvassers have already got nearly enough signatures in Vancouver districts like the West End and along False Creek.

Most Interior and Northern districts are also doing well, with about a third of the signatures gathered, and campaigns are running ahead of schedule in Nelson, Kelowna and Kamloops.

Suburban ridings in Metro Vancouver, including Surrey and Coquitlam, have proven more challenging.

“Surrey is a bit of an issue. It’s a lot of districts in one city and a lot of people that we need.”

Canvassers from Vancouver will be sent to those areas as Vancouver ridings wrap up, Larsen said.

So far, Sensible BC has 3,000 canvassers registered, up from 1,600 when they launched.

Larsen expects the canvasser count will grow to 4,000 by the early December deadline, but that would be well short of Fight HST’s 6,500 canvassers.

Petition locations are on the Sensible BC website at sensiblebc.ca.