Pot petition supporters seeking Whistler signatures 

High visitor population making it 'tricky' for canvassers to find eligible voters

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One might assume that Whistler would be a good place to garner support for decriminalizing simple marijuana possession, but local organizers working on the Sensible BC campaign are finding it tough.

Hempire owner Adam Forrester, who has been leading the Whistler charge to collect signatures towards the Sensible BC petition, said gathering signatures here is a challenge because Whistler's transient population has made it difficult to find those eligible to sign.

"The several times I have tried to canvass while I'm at work out of the shop, and you can just imagine with all the tourists walking past, trying to pick the local is an impossible game because you have to be a registered voter for your area," he said.

"It's a tricky one out here to try and find where all the locals are at one time."

Forrester has recruited five canvassers to work in the Whistler area as they work towards a goal of collecting 1,000 signatures.

"We've got a great team and I'm positive that we'll meet our goal," said Forrester. "Inertia is building exponentially and we're picking up steam here."

The campaign, organized by pot activist Dana Larsen, is currently attempting to collect signatures from 10 per cent of all registered voters in each of B.C.'s provincial electoral districts in support of decriminalization and a move towards legal regulation of cannabis. If successful, it would spark a referendum in 2014 that would let voters decide if the group's Sensible Policing Act should become law.

All signatures must be collected within a 90-day period that ends on Dec. 5. Though finding eligible voters has been tough, Forrester said he's been getting good reactions from at least 90 per cent of the individuals he approaches with the petition.

"I'm not the type of person who usually does this kind of thing... but the positive response that I've been getting from people makes it quite easy to continue to do," he said.

Mark Vaughan is the lead organizer for the West Vancouver-Sea to Sky riding and said efforts in Squamish have been successful. The Sensible BC "CannaBus" that has been touring the province to help attract support for the campaign stopped in the community two weekends ago and Vaughan said 350 signatures were collected during that visit alone. Organizers have also found many supporters willing to put their names on the petition by setting up at the Squamish Farmers' Market.

However, Vaughan said that the far-flung nature of the riding as a whole has posed difficulty elsewhere.

"The whole Sea to Sky corridor, as politicians for years have realized, is a tremendously difficult riding. It's so decentralized," said Vaughan. "We've got Bowen Island, Lions Bay, Pemberton, Squamish, Whistler, part of West Vancouver — so it's a very hard area to get a consensus around.

"For example, in West Vancouver-Capilano... there are areas where you congregate and get most of the population. But for us it's quite a challenge."

Vaughan said the goal for West Vancouver-Sea to Sky is to collect upwards of 5,000 signatures in order to ensure the district covers its required 10 per cent. Province-wide, Sensible BC has set a target of 400,000 signers.

Although some Pemberton residents expressed an interest in participating as canvassers, Vaughan said there isn't currently a local organizer in the area, noting that the focus has been on larger communities throughout the riding after some initial delays receiving canvassing cards from Elections BC. He's hopeful to get the campaign better established in the Spud Valley and in Lions Bay in the next week.

Petition signing stations have been set up at Hempire in Whistler and at Squamish Integrated Health. Both locations have petitions for all electoral districts and can accept signatures from voters registered outside West Vancouver-Sea to Sky.

As well, the next Green Drinks meeting will be feature a discussion about what impact decriminalizing marijuana could have on the environment. A petition will be available to sign at the event, which takes place Nov. 6 at 8 p.m. at Black's Pub.



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