Maple Ridge mayor signs pot petition

Organizers want to force a province-wide referendum on amending the B.C. Police Act.

A man signs the Sensible BC petition at the Haney Farmer's Market in Maple Ridge.

Maple Ridge Mayor Ernie Daykin has added his voice to the call for law reform by signing the SensibleBC petition, which calls for referendum on decriminalizing marijuana..

“There needs to be some conversation had,” Daykin said Tuesday.

“I think what we’ve got isn’t working. Hopefully what’s proposed will help the situation. Maybe legalizing it and taxing the crap out of it, selling it in liquor stores, is the way to go.”

SensibleBC is collecting signatures throughout B.C. ridings in an effort to force a referendum on changing the B.C. Police Act.

Organizers need to collect signatures of 10 per cent of the registered voters in each riding by Dec. 5 in order to force a provincewide referendum on amending the B.C. Police Act.

In Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows, that means 3,800 signatures must be collected, while in Maple Ridge-Mission the requirement is 3,900 signatures.

So far, two months into the 90-day campaign, organizers still have lots of work to collect those names.

“We have close to 1,400 signatures in each riding now, so we’re a little more than a third of the way there,” said Craig Speirs a former Maple Ridge councillor.

Time is running short, however. Less than a month remains to collect another 2,400 signatures in each riding.

If enough names are collected in all of B.C.’s 85 ridings and a referendum passes, the government would have to change the police act so that officers no longer would make arrests for simple possession or do searches and seizures.

SensibleBC’s proposed changes would also extend the policies of the Liquor Control Act to marijuana, meaning teens under 19 couldn’t possess marijuana and could be ticketed, in the same way as for alcohol.

Daykin said sometimes people get locked into taking certain positions and don’t want to discuss or change them.

“Maybe we need to look at it because prohibition is not working.”

According to SensibleBC, the rate of pot possession charges in B.C. has been increasing. In 2010, police charged twice as many people with marijuana possession than in 2005.

Speirs said the federal government continues its hardline opposition to marijuana reform because it appeals to its core base of supporters. But by refusing to relax rules, the government is killing more than 200,000 jobs in B.C. that could result from legalization of pot, he added.

B.C. will lose its marketing edge in an emerging industry that promises to pay billions in tax revenue, Speirs said in a recent letter.

He asked both BC Liberal MLAs, Doug Bing and Marc Dalton, if they’d sign the petition, but was told they don’t have permission to yet. The B.C. government opposes marijuana decriminalization.

Pitt Meadows Mayor Deb Walters is taking a different approach than her Maple Ridge counterpart. “I haven’t signed it and I don’t plan on signing it,” she said.

“I just don’t want to have my opinions impressed on anybody else.”

But she has no problem if marijuana is legalized.

“I’m happy with whatever way it decides to go. I have no problem with it anyway.”

She said other councillors haven’t talked about it.

Despite the growing clamour for looser marijuana laws, Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission Conservative MP Randy Kamp opposes decriminalization or legalization.

“I’ve never smoked marijuana. I don’t have any intention on smoking marijuana. In my view, it’s a pretty harmful drug. I think the evidence is pretty clear, especially for adolescents. I think that would be setting a poor example to young people.”

Kamp isn’t clear what SensibleBC is proposing, but it sends a message that marijuana is harmless, “And it’s not, in my view,” he said.

“I think most Canadians don’t smoke marijuana … and I think most Canadians support our point of view.”

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