A group working to decriminalize the possession of marijuana in B.C. is set to launch a petition aimed at stopping police from cracking down on pot smokers in the province.
Starting Sept. 9, the group will have 90 days to collect more than 350,000 signatures from across the province.
If the group is successful, it could trigger a referendum on a draft bill, entitled the Sensible Policing Act, which would amend the Police Act to prohibit the use of provincial police resources to enforce simple possession-and-use laws for adults.
Executive director Dana Larsen says the biggest challenge is getting to every area of the province.
"We need 10 per cent of the registered voters in every single one of B.C.'s 85 ridings to sign on board. If we just miss one district with 9.9 per cent, our referendum campaign fails," said Larsen.
Larsen said they accept not everyone will want to sign the petition, but he is concerned some people may be too scared to sign.
"There are people out there who are afraid of signing or coming on board with our campaign because they think something bad will happen or they will be judged in their community or the RCMP will come to their door and arrest them."
The Sensible BC campaign comes a year after U.S. voters opted to legalize marijuana just south of the border in Washington and in Colorado.
- Tokers celebrate as Washington state legalizes pot
- Legal marijuana: How could it work?
- Marijuana: the political, legal and medical angles
The referendum question would not deal with the federally-regulated issue of legalization — and the governing B.C. Liberals have refused to support the Sensible BC campaign until there are changes made to federal laws.
But Larsen believes their campaign will shed a light on the issue of marijuana legalization regardless.
"I believe legalization is the right way. If this referendum question is a step towards that, I believe it's a good thing."
Sensible BC received a financial boost last year when pot advocate Bob Erb donated $250,000 to their campaign after winning $25 million in the lottery.