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Marijuana reform still a pipe dream in Vernon

Obile Garneau and Linda Brooks were some of the first to sign their names on the Sensible B.C. petition in Polson park.
December 06, 2013 - 7:36 AM

VERNON - Shopkeepers weren’t so eager to support the efforts of marijuana activists in Vernon.

In the three month Sensible B.C. campaign period, only one business allowed them on its premises, a hemp shop called Kush Organics. In other ridings, like Penticton, several businesses offered up their support by the second month. Vernon organizer Boyd Goble says having only one business where people could sign the petition was the biggest hindrance to the local campaign. While he’s deeply grateful to Kush, he says it wasn’t the most “neutral” storefront.

“I don’t look at it differently from any other store, but others do. They look at it as a head shop,” Goble says. “In a town the size of Vernon you need more than one place for people to sign.”

Goble estimates volunteers gathered around 3,000 signatures, short of the 4,200 goal. In order to go to referendum, Sensible B.C. has to get 10 per cent of eligible voters in each of the province’s ridings to sign the petition. The Sensible Policing Act would amend B.C.‘s Police Act to direct the RCMP to stop spending time and resources on searching, seizing or arresting anyone for simple cannabis possession. It would amend the Police Act without actually changing the illegal status of marijuana.

Dec. 9 marks the official end of the 90 day campaign period. The Vernon group has already sent off their petition sheets to Vancouver to be counted and vetted for fakes. Goble says they dealt with a number of phonies like Popeye the Pirate.

Despite the blessings of one store manager for them to set their booth up outside its front doors, Sensible B.C. campaigners were chased off the Village Green Mall property, Goble says. Earlier attempts to obtain approval to set up inside the mall were also unsuccessful.

The campaign started off with a full fleet of volunteers, but many began dropping off as they heard about conflicts between police and volunteers in other ridings.

“The police hassling scared my canvassers off,” Goble says. “It’s a tough thing to do to speak publicly about cannabis, it’s another thing when people are intimidating you.”

Leader of the Sensible B.C. movement Dana Larsen has said if they don’t get enough signatures this time around, they won’t give up. Goble says they deserve a “fair and just attempt” next time, without interference from police on public spaces. 

“The one thing that became a theme was ‘I’d love to sign but I don’t want to lose my job.’ There was a huge percentage of people convinced they would lose their jobs or their kids would be persecuted, so they walked away,” Goble says.

But even if the campaign fails in numbers, it has been successful in educating the public about marijuana reform, and helping the campaigners identify obstacles, Goble believes. 

“There’s a majority of people who want this,” Goble says. “But there’s still a massive stigma.”


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To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at, call (250)309-5230 or tweet @charhelston.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013
InfoTel News Ltd

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