Students bring Sensible BC campaign to campus

Jessica Klymchuk, News Editor Ω

Madi Lowe and Mike Neigel have collected around 75 signatures for the marijuana referendum petition on campus. Jessica Klymchuk/The Omega

Madi Lowe and Mike Neigel have collected around 75 signatures for the marijuana referendum petition on campus. Jessica Klymchuk/The Omega

Students don’t have to go out of their way to support the most recent effort to decriminalize marijuana. Mike Neigel and Madi Lowe have brought Sensible BC’s campaign for a marijuana referendum onto campus in an effort to reach a demographic they felt was being missed.

It’s not as though the student demographic was being ignored, but that there is a lack of student canvassers, Neigel said. He and Lowe are the only student canvassers he knows of, but he wants young people to be aware of the issue at hand as well as the democratic process involved.

“It’s super important, because we are the ones that have recently come of voting age,” Lowe said, ”and a lot of people don’t use that privilege … I think it’s important to let people this age know.”

Sensible BC director Dana Larsen said it saw the decriminalization of marijuana as a young person’s issue, but was surprised to see a large portion of its volunteers are actually senior citizens. He said it’s important to reach every demographic.

“I think that younger people might support legalization but they are less politically engaged, they don’t have as much time and they don’t have any faith in the system,” he said.

Neigel and Lowe have collected around 75 signatures on campus, but said they might have more if they were in a higher traffic area. So far they have only been able to campaign in the Campus Activity Centre, but will have a table set up in Old Main on Nov. 29.

“Considering the traffic in the building and the controversial nature of the topic, I think it’s gone well,” Neigel said, adding that there is still time for people to show their support.

However successful Sensible BC’s campaign turns out to be, Neigel and Lowe think educating the community on the topic is just as important. The response from students has been mixed, but they said many people aren’t taking the time to learn what the petition is for.

Sensible BC is petitioning for a marijuana referendum that would decriminalize marijuana. Jessica Klymchuk/The Omega

Sensible BC is petitioning for a marijuana referendum that would decriminalize marijuana. Jessica Klymchuk/The Omega

“I think when people hear about this petition they jump to the conclusion ‘oh, it’s legalizing pot,’ but this is to give them a chance to vote yes or no if they want,” Lowe said. “So once people listen I think they are a lot more open minded.”

Sensible BC needs to collect at least 10 per cent support from each of B.C.’s 85 electoral districts, a total of around 400,000 signatures, in order to force a referendum. The 90-day petition began Sept. 9 and will wrap up Dec. 5. If the campaign is successful, a referendum to decriminalize marijuana in B.C. will be held in September 2014.

Larsen said the campaign has collected around 150,000 signatures and at this point they are pouring in faster than ever. Both the South and North Thompson need around 4,000 signatures each. He said North Thompson is over the halfway point, while South Thompson is just about half way with two weeks to go.

“I’m not giving up until the very last day,” South Thompson organizer Theresa Edstrom said.

Larsen said if this campaign fails, Sensible BC will have a head start for the next one, and either way it’s only one part of a much larger campaign.

With the referendum, Sensible BC is calling upon the B.C. government to pass the Sensible Policing Act, an amendment to the B.C. Police Act, which will decriminalize marijuana possession in the province. A second part of the proposed act calls upon the federal government to remove marijuana from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and ultimately start legally taxing and regulating marijuana.