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Pot campaign organizer fights against marijuana stereotypes
Although the Sensible BC campaign to decriminalize marijuana in the province has gone up in smoke, a local organizer says it was a learning experience.
Ralph Howey, who headed up the Delta South challenge to collect the signatures of 10 per cent of registered voters in the riding over a 90-day period, says he wasn’t aggressive enough in his strategy.
Although he and other volunteers collected signatures for the campaign outside of the South Delta Recreation Centre in Tsawwassen during the Southlands public hearings, they were barred from many properties owned by Century Group.
“I made the mistake of asking for permission instead of forgiveness,” said Howey with a smile.
“The support was there but we fell down in the canvassing, both not being out there to sign and not having permanent sign up locations,” he said.
The Sensible BC campaign managed to sign up 210,000 people across the province, succeeding in surpassing the 10 per cent threshold in 20 ridings. Delta South, however, was one of 23 ridings which managed just over five per cent.
The campaign would have needed an estimated 400,000 signatures to have a shot at forcing the issue to a ballot referendum on decriminalization, similar to the one that was achieved by the Fight HST campaign in reinstating the provincial sales tax.
Howey said another difficulty they faced was finding volunteers and the unreliability of free labour.
“They all fell off because of health issues or parents or what have you,” he said.
Howey, who smokes marijuana for pleasure, said many people are fighting against the negative stereotypes that have been built up around the psychoactive drug and those who smoke it.
Howey said one fellow canvasser was furious at media reports portraying Sensible BC supporters as shifty people with unkempt beards smoking stubby marijuana joints.
“Meanwhile, they show people drinking alcohol in crystal glasses and fancy clothes,” he said.
Now that the campaign is over, organizers like Howey are looking to use the learning experience to make another attempt at decriminalization in the future.