Canvassers for the Sensible BC campaign to decriminalize marijuana have to December 5 to get hundreds of thousands of signatures to spark a referendum vote.
In the Kitimat area, and surrounding electoral district, Zachary Canuel is the district coordinator, a Kitimat-raised young man who has seen the trouble criminalized marijuana can bring.
He said six years ago when he was 18, he was detained by police on suspicion of marijuana possession — no criminal charges followed — but that moment is what brought him out to fight for marijuana decriminalization today.
But one thing he wants people to know is the campaign isn’t about giving the people the ability to just get high.
“A lot of people don’t realize it has nothing to do with getting high, it’s about the fact that our expenditures in law enforcement have achieved nothing. Drugs are stronger, more accessible, cheaper than they’ve ever been,” he said.
And it’s not a path to free access to marijuana either. He said it needs to be sold carefully, such as liquor in designated liquor stores, and regulated similarly.
In fact alcohol itself is not even as safe as marijuana, he says.
“Alcohol is more dangerous than most of the illicit drugs that are out there.”
Kitimat, as well as Terrace and Smithers, has been a receptive community to the campaign, he said.
There’s only the occasional scowled face from people who pass by.
“It’s easy to shrug those people off when pretty much 90 per cent of the people I see are very supportive,” he said.
With a need for 15 per cent of the signatures of registered voters, he said they’re looking to gather 3,090 names in the Skeena riding.
Province-wide most campaigners are behind in hitting their milestones, while Canuel said he’s about half-way there locally.
“Being a little bit behind on the first half of the campaign, we’ve got to get things in gear,” he said. “I’m sure the Skeena area is doing a lot better than certain other parts of the province. I’m not too worried about our area.”
At the campaigns 30-day mark, Sensible BC spokesman Dana Larsen said the campaign had 65,000 signatures as of Oct. 9 – 15,000 less than their aim of 80,000 by the 30-day mark of the 90-day petition drive.
“We’re a little bit behind the target we set,” Larsen said, adding getting canvassers officially registered has proven more onerous than expected.
– With files from Jeff Nagel