“We’ve had one billboard with Astral Media, showing in West Vancouver last week,” said Sensible BC Director Dana Larsen. “They had no problems running our billboard, and it’s had a great response. But we’ve been trying to buy ad space with Pattison Outdoor for many weeks now, and they just won’t sell us any ads.”
You can see the proposed billboards and ad designs online here.
“I don’t know what the problem is,” Larsen said. “We offered to make any changes they wanted, including removing the marijuana leaf or changing the wording. But instead of discussing how we could create an ad that worked for them, Pattison Outdoor just stopped answering our emails and won’t take our calls.”
“Pattison Outdoor has more billboard and outdoor ad space than any other company,” Larsen said. “It’s frustrating for our political campaign to be blocked by a big corporation that has a near-monopoly on outdoor advertising in our province.”
“Maybe its because Pattison Outdoor makes so much money selling ads for alcohol,” said Larsen. “They could be worried that marijuana will compete with the profits they make from promoting liquor.”
What Larsen thinks is exceptionally strange is that Pattison Outdoor has run marijuana-themed billboards before. In 2011, they ran billboards with prominent marijuana leaves for the Green Line Academy Medical Marijuana Seminar.
See the Green Line Academy Medical Marijuana Billboard here.
This isn’t the first time Pattison Outdoor has blocked ads for a political campaign. Last year, Pattison Outdoor refused to sell billboard space to GreenPeace in Edmonton.
“We were told that the person responsible for blocking our ads from running was Rob Hunt, General Manager for the Pacific Region. We tried to contact Mr. Hunt, but he never answered any of our calls or emails.”
Over the past few months, Larsen has been busy promoting the Sensible BC campaign and building support, including some high-profile endorsements.
“We’ve been formally endorsed by the BC Health Officers Council, the BC Civil Liberties Association and Stop the Violence BC, as well as several drug policy groups including the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. We’ve also had strong editorial endorsements in the Vancouver Sun, the Province and many local community newspapers.”
Sensible BC has also been doing substantial outreach, both online and by phone.
“In May we autodialed every landline in the province, over 1.4 million numbers, with an interactive voice message,” Larsen said. “This has identified thousands of new volunteers across BC. We’ll be doing another pass over the coming week, to make sure we reach as many people as possible.”
“Even with these numbers, it’s still going to be a huge challenge to collect the 400,000 signatures we will need to qualify for a referendum,” Larsen said. “This is a massive organizing effort. But it turns out there’s a lot of British Columbians who are excited about the possibility of decriminalization in our province.”
Sensible BC will have only 90 days to collect signatures, and are starting that clock in September. If they can collect signatures from 10% of registered voters in every electoral district, then there will be a referendum on the Sensible Policing Act in September 2014.
The Sensible Policing Act has already been approved by Elections BC as within provincial jurisdiction and suitable for a referendum.
“The Sensible Policing Act does four things,” said Larsen. “First, it effectively decriminalizes marijuana possession in BC by instructing all police in the province to stop spending time or resources on detaining or arresting anyone for marijuana possession. Second, it treats possession of marijuana by minors in the same manner as if it were alcohol. Third, it formally calls upon the federal government to repeal marijuana prohibition. Fourth, it sets up a provincial commission to figure out the details around a regulated marijuana market in British Columbia.”
“All of these things are within provincial jurisdiction, and are the first steps to a sensible marijuana law in our province.”