Public Forum on Sensible Cannabis Policy in British Columbia

CANNABIS CULTURE – Sensible BC, the activist group behind a new campaign to decriminalize marijuana in British Columbia, will host a Public Forum on Sensible Cannabis Policy in Victoria on Monday, September 24.

A panel of speakers including NDP MLA Nicholas Simons (Powell River–Sunshine Coast), Dr. Evan Wood of Stop the Violence BC, City of Metchosin Mayor John Ranns, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition Canada President David Bratzer, and precedent-setting pot lawyer Kirk Tousaw will discuss cannabis decriminalization and provide information about the upcoming ballot initiative to defund police enforcement of marijuana possession laws in the province.

The event will be moderated by former Victoria City Councillor and founder of the Vancouver Island Compassion Society Philippe Lucas.

The Sensible Policing Act (PDF), drafted by accomplished marijuana activists Dana Larsen and Kirk Tousaw, would amend the police act to prohibit the use of provincial resources in enforcing section 4 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act “if such violations relate solely to cannabis”.

“By modifying the Police Act, we can tell the police: don’t bother anyone about simple possession cases, don’t search or seize – just leave them alone,” Larsen, the former editor of Cannabis Culture and recent candidate for leadership of the BC NDP told me on a recent episode of CCN LIVE. “[The amendment] would take us on the first steps toward fully taxing and regulating cannabis at the provincial level.”

Larsen pointed out that British Columbia has the highest number of cannabis possession arrests, per capita, of any Canadian province and noted that possession arrests in the province doubled from 2005 to 2010.

Elections BC has already approved the initiative in principle and will issue a petition giving Sensible BC 90 days to collect signatures in ridings across the province. Larsen said he will not attempt to officially collect signatures until 2013 (when he will re-subit the amendment) and will use the time till then to promote it and build an army of supporters.

“It is a very difficult procedure, absolutely,” Larsen told CBC News. “It’s a big challenge. That’s why we’re doing it in this unique way of spending a year in advance to build support and build up our volunteer base.

“I am very confident that far more than 10 per cent of the registered voters in every riding of the province support decriminalization of cannabis.”

Support for marijuana legalization in BC is high, with recent polls showing 69 per cent in favor of legalizing small amounts of marijuana.

The Public Forum on Sensible Cannabis Policy will be held at the Alix Goolden Performance Hall (907 Pandora Ave., Victoria) on Monday, September 24 from 7 – 9 PM (View the map). Admission is free – get tickets.

The event coincides with the annual convention of the Union of B.C. Municipalities, where delegates are expected to vote on a resolution calling on governments to “decriminalize marijuana and research the regulation and taxation of marijuana.”

“We’re hoping this issue gains more traction with provincial politicians and contributes to discussions about health and safety issues that are a direct consequence of cannabis prohibition,” Dr. Evan Wood, a UBC professor and director of the Urban Health Initiative at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, told the press. “No one is advocating for unrestrained marijuana legislation, but we are talking about a framework of strict controls that has the potential to wage economic war on organized crime, to increase [government]revenues and reduce rates of marijuana use in the province.”

“We have a great panel,” Larsen said. “Come find out why a police officer, a doctor, a mayor, an MLA and a lawyer all say we can decriminalize cannabis in BC today.”

Pot TV will broadcast the event LIVE from 7 to 9 PM PST. Watch the show and join the chat:

Find out more about the campaign to decriminalize cannabis possession in British Columbia at SensibleBC.ca.

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