Sensible BC is a group which is working to decriminalize the simple possession of cannabis in British Columbia through the Sensible Policing Act.
The Sensible Policing Act would amend the Police Act, to redirect all police in the province from taking any action, including searches, seizures, citations or arrests, in cases of simple cannabis possession by adults. This would apply to all RCMP and municipal police in BC.
It is true that marijuana is prohibited under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, which is federal legislation.
However, the provinces control “administration of justice” which includes policing and police priorities. All police in BC operate under the authority of the BC Police Act. Directing the use of police resources through an amendment to the Police Act is entirely within provincial jurisdiction.
It is common for cities and provinces across Canada to set priorities and instructions for their police and prosecutors.
For instance, over the past few years, eight provinces refused to enforce the federal Firearms Act because they did not support the Long Gun Registry. The government of British Columbia joined with seven other provinces by refusing to enforce the federal law.
In that case, provincial governments declared that “resources should be directed to the prosecution of substantive criminal offences.” We are asking for the BC government to take the same stance in regards to simple possession of cannabis.
More recently, the BC government fought for the right of InSite, the Supervised Injection Site, to continue operations despite the federal government wanting to close it down. In that case, the provincial government took the federal government to court, and won the right to keep InSite open.
Actually, BC has Canada’s highest rate of police reported incidents for simple possession of marijuana. BC police spend about twice as much time and money as the national average on dealing with marijuana possession.
BC police spent their time on over 19,000 incidents of marijuana possession in 2010 alone, a rate of 420 incidents per 100,000 people. The national average is just 220 per 100,000. Ontario has a rate of 165, and Alberta has 195.
Over 3,580 British Columbians were charged with simple possession of marijuana last year. This is close to double the rate of charges of any other province.
The rate of pot possession charges in BC has been steadily increasing for years. In 2010, BC police charged twice as many people with marijuana possession than they did in 2005.
It’s true that we need to go further than just decriminalizing the simple possession of cannabis.
That is why the Sensible Policing Act also mandates the BC government to start figuring out the exact kinds of rules and laws that will need to be put into place for marijuana to be properly regulated and legally taxed. They can begin with lessons learned from how we deal with legal access to alcohol and tobacco.
However, decriminalizing simple possession of cannabis is a positive first step towards making these larger changes to the cannabis laws.
The Sensible Policing Act still allows police to deal with drivers impaired by marijuana or any other substance in the exact same way they always have. There are no changes in this regard.
The Sensible Policing Act treats possession of marijuana by a minor in the exact same way as alcohol.
The Liquor Control Act empowers police officers to seize alcohol from minors, and to issue a ticket if they choose. The Sensible Policing Act extends that to also cover marijuana.
We are lobbying all political parties to support the Sensible Policing Act, and we are calling upon Premier Christy Clark to pass the Sensible Policing Act into law.
We are also promoting a provincial referendum on the Sensible Policing Act. To hold a referendum we will need to collect over 350,000 signatures from voters all across the Province.
Please register now so that we can easily collect your official signature when the time comes.
BC’s referendum system has fixed election dates. The next one is scheduled for September 2014.
It’s not easy to get on the ballot, the HST referendum campaign is the only one ever to succeed in getting enough signatures to force a vote.
To have a provincial vote in September 2014, we need to get the signed support of 10% of registered voters in every riding. We will be officially collecting signatures for the ballot initiative in the fall of 2013.
We are asking all British Columbians who support our campaign to register now. That way we can easily collect your official signature when the time comes.
More importantly, we need people like you all across the province, to help to build awareness and support in your communities. Click here to find out what you can do to get involved in the Sensible BC campaign.