Sensible B.C. campaign aims to stop police busts for possession of marijuana

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      As he munches on a beef sandwich in a cluttered eighth-floor office near Victory Square, Dana Larsen hardly seems the type to have a monumental impact on policing. But don’t let his casual attire deceive you. As the financial agent of the Sensible B.C. campaign to stop police from busting people for marijuana possession, Larsen is spearheading a revolution on behalf of pot smokers. And he’s hoping that the initiative he’s sponsoring to amend the Police Act will have as much success as a similar campaign to eliminate the harmonized sales tax.

      “It’s very challenging,” Larsen tells the Georgia Straight. “The odds have been stacked against us from the beginning, but I will say the odds are much better now than when we started.”

      The campaign received a boost earlier this year when Terrace cannabis activist Bob Erb promised to match donations up to $500,000 to Sensible B.C. Erb made the pledge after winning a $25-million lottery jackpot a day after Larsen spoke against marijuana prohibition in Terrace. “I had just left his town and then I heard on the radio that he’d won the lottery,” Larsen says.

      To start the process, Larsen needed to have a draft bill accepted by the chief electoral officer. With the help of legal expert Kirk Tousaw, Larsen wrote the Sensible Policing Act. It declares that no member of a provincial or municipal police force “may utilize and/or expend any police resources, including member time, on investigations, searches, seizures, citations, arrests and/or detentions related solely” to possession of marijuana. The draft legislation also requires the minister responsible for policing to write to the prime minister, calling upon the federal government to amend the law within three months of its receiving royal assent so that B.C. “can tax and regulate cannabis using lessons learned from the regulation of alcohol and tobacco”.

      Beginning in September, Larsen has 90 days to collect signatures of 10 percent of registered voters in each of the province’s 85 constituencies. That will require thousands of volunteer canvassers to gather names in their areas.

      “We need about 400,000-odd signatures—that would be the minimum,” Larsen says. “We’re hoping for a half a million to put it over the top. Our goal is to motivate our base.”

      If that target is achieved, the chief electoral officer has 42 days to verify that the signatures are valid. Once this occurs, the bill goes to a legislative committee. Members can either table a report recommending the bill be introduced into the legislature, where it can die on the order paper, or refer the bill to the chief electoral officer for in initiative vote, which would take place on September 27, 2014. The initiative vote requires approval from more than 50 percent of registered voters in total, as well as 50 percent of registered voters in two-thirds of B.C.’s electoral districts. The initiative vote is not binding on the government, but it would force the draft bill to be introduced into the house for debate.

      One of the organizers of the HST initiative, Bill Tieleman, tells the Straight that Larsen faces a daunting challenge. “If everything worked in the right way, it’s still not anywhere near guaranteed that you’ll get a referendum,” Tieleman says.

      Tieleman adds that there were 6,500 canvassers gathering signatures opposed to the HST. Even with an army of this size, the campaign nearly failed when it came close to missing the mark in one of the Abbotsford constituencies. “One out of 85 ridings screws up and you’re done,” he says.

      So far, Larsen says he hasn’t received much of a public push from provincial politicians apart from the NDP MLA for Saanich South, Lana Popham, posting a positive comment on the Sensible B.C. website. However, Larsen claims that the campaign has already identified tens of thousands of supporters, who will be contacted next month to sign petitions at designated locations.

      “In an election campaign, you get guaranteed access to apartment buildings, but not for this,” he says.

      Tieleman recommends that Sensible B.C. push for an initiative vote to prevent its draft legislation from being buried by the B.C. Liberal government. It’s a message that Larsen appears to have taken to heart.

      “We’re used to politicians wimping out on this, not addressing it, avoiding it, denying it, even though there is overwhelming public support,” the campaigner says. “This, to me, is exactly what our referendum system was designed for: to deal with the issues where the politicians are way out of whack with the will of the people. It’s a way of getting them back on course again.”

      In advance of the campaign, Sensible B.C. funded a research paper by SFU criminologist Neil Boyd that shows a doubling in annual marijuana-possession charges in B.C. between 2005 and 2011. Boyd estimated that court and policing costs of marijuana-possession enforcement reach $10 million per year in B.C.

      “This cost is difficult to justify, as a mounting toll of criminal convictions continues to impose significant employment limitations and travel restrictions upon convicted users,” Boyd wrote. “Further, it is well known that cannabis use represents a relatively trivial risk to public health, in contrast to other more widely used mind-active legal drugs.”

      Cannabis-legalization activist Jodie Emery says she hopes that citizens don’t lose sight of the financial costs.

      “They’re paying for pot-prohibition enforcement through policing and the courts,” she declares in her West Hastings Street office, which doubles as the headquarters for Pot TV. “That’s something they should be upset about. They should get out in the street and say, ‘No, we need to end this prohibition and you’re wasting my money.’”



      Bob X

      Jul 25, 2013 at 7:22pm

      While it doesn't make sense to continually enforce laws for a substance so much in demand anymore. the real issue is why it's so much in demand, Given no one in their right mind would consume it. (in effect, Scientific Fact) similarly to the alcohol industry, (The wine/alcohol industry has has been promoting itself as healthy for years, for those that could accomplish the same results living otherwise healthier) legitimate medical uses aside, Which are few, has few benefits to society other than keep the masses placated to the point they can be walked over and never know what hit government or side effects. I saying this also as a former consumer...... Nay sayers no doubt guffaw. But it doesn't take a great deal of intelligence to become successful in this materialist world & become an influence and example of a good socially functioning Drug addict. And encourage others to follow their example, at times peril to followers...... At one time alcohol products couldn't be advertised here. For good reason, Now we shovel scores of drunken youth into cabs on Granville Street nightly or picking their bodies out of morgues after consumption..... and it a rite of passage. With Pot smoking the bodies are alive, but the spirit of them is gone. Already dead.... Pot is an opiate.....Don't forget it, it only other functional drug addicts that make it possible for them to function within a limited social environment. .


      Jul 26, 2013 at 3:04am

      Pot is not an opiate, maybe take a moment and get some simple facts straight before going on a very convoluted rant. I can't even begin to criticize the above ignorance. Yikes!

      Lloyd Braun

      Jul 26, 2013 at 4:50am

      Bodies are alive but spirits are dead? Tell us more please Dr. Bob. And while you are at it, please explain why when you google marijuana and Alzheimer's, tons of articles claiming it's potential benefits like this one come up.

      The latest review, published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, suggests that activating the brain?s cannabinoid system may trigger a sort of anti-oxidant cleanse, removing damaged cells and improving the efficiency of the mitochrondria, the energy source that powers cells, ultimately leading to a more robustly functioning brain.

      Previous studies have linked cannabinoids to increased amounts of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a substance that protects brain cells and promotes the growth of new ones. Since new cell growth slows or stops during aging, increasing BDNF could potentially slow the decline in cognitive functions.



      Jul 26, 2013 at 9:27am

      Does Bob think that everyone who tries drugs is basically destined to be an extra in the sequel to trainspotting?? Seriously man, pull your head out and get a clue.

      Hunter Thompson

      Jul 26, 2013 at 9:32am

      “With a bit of luck, his life was ruined forever. Always thinking that just behind some narrow door in all of his favorite bars, men in red woolen shirts are getting incredible kicks from things he’ll never know.”


      Jul 26, 2013 at 12:21pm

      Bob's not wrong, in that one should aspire to develop sufficient inner resources to make intoxication pointless.

      On the other hand, who has the aptitude and interest in becoming a holistic mystic? Certainly not me! I am going to take the shortcut, thanks. A beer after hockey is pleasantly relaxing! I'm sure the odd toke on a natural plant substance, at night after all work is done and no heavy machinery will be operated, is no worse.

      Bob X

      Jul 26, 2013 at 9:30pm

      Ok Not an opiate, but a narcotic....With essentially the same kind of self deluding properties......that deadens the human spirit.....or replaces it with one created by it's sensual enhancing properties.....
      In Some parts of Africa, (Where I also lived at one time) it not conceivable to consume Pot to the levels western society enjoys, Or be continually used medicinally, they would starve to death or be always be dependant on others for financial food security. But this society has it too easy and is out of touch, spiritually and materially, trending to fill itself with all kinds of artificial stimuli to fulfill its' emptiness.
      And no shortage of narrow like weak minded advocates. addicts like misery have no shortage of company and support. If it was the end all to be all, everyone would be doing it...... (as a westerner in Africa where it was readily available, couldn't easily find anyone to share a joint with...and also at the local beer Houses. Drugs are for sick people it was inferred to me., and demand for it here indicating we're a pretty sick society, Happily from the responses to this post...... The wonder of drug addiction making everything better......Top it up with a craft beer or other self deluding exercises


      Jul 27, 2013 at 12:44am

      While it is true that smoking marijuana on a regular basis does dull the brain (and spirit, too), it is undoubtedly very effective in treating many health issues, and as such is worth fighting for. It must not be suppressed by the pharmaceutical industry greed, which is what gave marijuana, back in the thirties, the image it has today amongst the uninformed population.
      The option to smoke pot to avoid facing any little challenge in any domain must be the choice of every individual. The wise ones will not do it. The fools will, just like they go and feed on poisons at McDonald's.
      Yes, the human spirit, when beheld with patience and introspection, IS THE source of joy. Any drug will only uncover it. Some people think they need them.
      But this is a free choice one must have.
      I digressed. The main thing is to make cannabis available for those with medical issues

      Which is Safer?

      Jul 27, 2013 at 5:09am

      Impact on the Community Cannabis vs Alcohol

      Alcohol use contributes to aggressive and violent behavior. Marijuana use does not.

      Studies have repeatedly shown that alcohol, unlike marijuana, contributes to the likelihood of aggessive and violent behavior. An article published in the Journal of Addictive Behaviors reported that "alcohol is clearly the drug with the most evidence to support a direct intoxication-violence relationship," whereas "cannabis reduces the likelihood of violence during intoxication."

      Alcohol use is a major factor in violent crimes. Marijuana use is not.

      The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism estimates that 25% to 30% of violent crimes in the United States are linked to the use of alcohol. According to a report from the U.S. Dept. of Justice, that translates to about 5,000,000 alcohol-related violent crimes per year. By contrast, the government does not even track violent acts specifically related to marijuana use, as the use of marijuana has not been associated with violence. (Of course, we should note that marijuana prohibition, by creating a widespread criminal market, is associated with acts of violence.)

      Alcohol use contributes to the likelihood of domestic abuse and sexual assault. Marijuana use does not.

      Alcohol is a major contributing factor in the prevalence of domestic violence and sexual assault. This is not to say that alcohol causes these problems; rather, its use makes it more likely that an individual prone to such behavior will act on it. For example, a study conducted by the Research Institute on Addictions found that among individuals who were chronic partner abusers, the use of alcohol was associated with significant increases in the daily likelihood of male-to-female physical aggression, but the use of marijuana was not. Specifically, the odds of abuse were eight times higher on days when men were drinking; the odds of severe abuse were 11 times higher. The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) website highlights alcohol as the "most commonly used chemical in crimes of sexual assault" and provides information on an array of other drugs that have been linked to sexual violence.

      Which is Safer?

      Jul 27, 2013 at 5:15am

      Alcohol use damages the brain. Marijuana use does not.

      Despite the myths we've heard throughout our lives about marijuana killing brain cells, it turns out that a growing number of studies seem to indicate that marijuana actually has neuroprotective properties. This means that it works to protect brain cells from harm. For example, one recent study found that teens who used marijuana as well as alcohol suffered significantly less damage to the white matter in their brains. Of course, what is beyond question is that alcohol damages brain cells.

      Alcohol use is linked to cancer. Marijuana use is not.

      Alcohol use is associated with a wide variety of cancers, including cancers of the esophagus, stomach, colon, lungs, pancreas, liver, and prostate. Marijuana use has not been conclusively associated with any form of cancer. In fact, one study recently contradicted the long-time government claim that marijuana use is associated with head and neck cancers. It found that marijuana use actually reduced the likelihood of head and neck cancers. If you are concerned about marijuana being associated with lung cancer, you may be interested in the results of the largest case-controlled study ever conducted to investigate the respiratory effects of marijuana smoking and cigarette smoking. Released in 2006, the study, conducted by Dr. Donald Tashkin at the University of California at Los Angeles, found that marijuana smoking was not associated with an increased risk of developing lung cancer. Surprisingly, the researchers found that people who smoked marijuana actually had lower incidences of cancer compared to non-users of the drug.

      All Sources For these claims can be found here... plus more comparisons of cannabis vs alcohol.