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North Shore Home To First Pro-Pot Billboard

The Sensible BC campaign for marijuana reform launched an ad campaign in West Vancouver for a province-wide cannabis referendum

A quarter-million commuters crossing the North Shore this week will have likely noticed the new greenery along Marine Drive near the Lions Gate Bridge.

It’s not in the bushes or trees but rather, um, higher.

The new ad campaign for marijuana legal reform was launched Monday by the folks at Sensible BC.

Their electronic billboard ad lighting up the border between North and West Vancouver features a giant cannabis leaf on a blue background and the words “Join the Sensible BC Marijuana Referendum campaign.”

It’s right now the only ad of its kind from the group promoting a fall referendum on the policing of marijuana in B.C.  But depending on the response it garners, it likely won’t be the last.

“If things go well, we’ll get other billboards in other cities and regions around the province,” said Sensible BC director Dana Larsen in an interview with The Outlook this week.  “It’s not specific that we’re necessarily targeting West Van more than anywhere else, but it’s a high-traffic area and a lot of folks go through there on their way to other places and we wanted to get some excitement and some interest in our campaign.”

While the campaign doesn’t actually begin in earnest until September, it’s of a kind that requires significant public awareness about its intentions beforehand if it’s to see any kind of success.

Similar to the successful Fight HST campaign of yesteryear, Larsen and his Sensible BC colleagues will have 90 days to sign up approximately 400,000 British Columbians – 10 per cent of voters from each provincial riding – to their Sensible Policing Act petition which aims to stop police in B.C.  from searching or arresting otherwise law-abiding citizens in possession of any amount of marijuana.

“Obviously that’s a monumental effort and it’s only ever been done once before, by the anti-HST campaign,” Larsen said.

If the campaign proves successful, a province-wide referendum to decriminalize marijuana and implement the Sensible Policing Act will be held in 2014.

Because drug laws in Canada are under federal jurisdiction, the Sensible Policing Act would go a step further than telling B.C.  police to stand down on marijuana offences.  The second part of the act would also call upon the federal government to either remove cannabis from the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, or to give B.C.  a Section 56 “scientific exemption” to explore legally taxing and regulating marijuana use within the province.

Sensible BC already has teams of volunteers canvassing B.C.  communities for supporters, including in North Vancouver.  By September, they hope to have about 2,000 volunteers to fan out across the province and gather signatures.

“This campaign got started on my credit cards and certainly those are still maxed out,” Larsen said.  But since getting off the ground last year, the campaign has received generous donations from across Canada, most notably, perhaps, from longtime pot activist and last year’s lottery jackpot winner, Bob Erb of Terrace, who is using some of his $25-million winnings to match dollar-for-dollar every donation to the Sensible BC campaign, on top of his own lump contribution.

Larsen said the roughly half-million-dollar referendum campaign is also getting logistical help from a few of the former Fight HST folks.

“I’ve met with them a few times,” Larsen said, indicating a few of the Fight HST leaders and online organizers.  In fact, anyone who visits the Fight HST website today – admittedly, few British Columbians still are – will see a Sensible BC registration button right at the top of the homepage.

“Also, when I go and speak, people often show up and say, ‘I helped get signatures for the HST campaign and I want to help you guys,’” Larsen said.

As for his own motives in sparking and carrying the torch for marijuana reform in this province, Larsen said the reasons are manifold.

“The cannabis issue touches on many areas of social policy; whether it’s health care and medical marijuana access, whether it’s the environment and the benefits of growing industrial hemp, whether it’s our budget and the amount of money we’re wasting on prohibition and the amount of money we could be generating from tax revenue, or whether it’s civil liberties and policing…  all these things I think will be greatly benefited by changing the marijuana laws,” he said.

Source: Outlook, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2013 Black Press
Author: Todd Coyne

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