- Our Town
Marijuana decriminalization petitioners active in Revelstoke
At Spice O’ Life Emporium, Revelstoke’s sex shop, they come in all shapes and sizes; they’re lined up on the shelf for all to see. Basic colourful plastic cylindrical ones, big ribbed glass ones, imported ceramic ones and compact ones you can tuck discreetly away. Yes, ‘The Most Tasteful “Sex Shop” in the West’ stocks a lot of bongs.
I visited Dinah Collette’s Orton Avenue shop by invite last week to learn more about Sensible BC’s cannabis decriminalization petition. Collette’s one of several Revelstoke signature gatherers, but as the owner of a sex shop/cannabis supply shop, Spice O’ Life is a de facto headquarters in Revelstoke.
What’s up with the Sensible BC cannabis decriminalization campaign? I met with provincial organizer Dana Larsen in Revelstoke in July, where he explained the details.
Here are the basics: Like the HST referendum, the Sensible BC campaign is mounting a referendum campaign. Starting on Sept. 9, they have three months to collect signatures from 10 per cent of registered voters in each of B.C.’s 85 electoral districts.
If they are successful, Elections BC will hold a cannabis decriminalization vote, by mail like the HST referendum.
The wording of the referendum focuses on decriminalization, not legalization. Basically, it would prohibit police in B.C. from arresting for the intent of prosecuting simple possession. Sensible BC sees it as a first step towards eventual decriminalization.
Back at Spice O’ Life, I ask Collette about the marijuana scene in Revelstoke she experiences as a vendor.
You’d be surprised, she tells me. “I’ve sold vaporizers to ladies in their 70s,” she said. Marijuana smokers come in all shapes and sizes.
“Everyone says the law is stupid,” Collette summarizes. She feels the police focus should be on hard drugs like crack and cocaine, and that prosecuting people who use a natural plant is wrong.
“It shouldn’t be a crime; it shouldn’t be illegal,” she said.
Collette said the younger crowd who use cannabis recreationally don’t seem to get too involved in the debate. But her older clients are more prone to talk about legalization, especially those who smoke for medical reasons.
She complained it was difficult to get certified as a medical user from local doctors, saying you have to go out of town to get a Health Canada note from a doctor, which involves a lengthy, bureaucratic application process.
(The Times Review spoke with a doctor representing the Selkirk Medical Clinic in July. He confirmed that local doctors tend to follow the advice of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. In a professional standards and guidelines statement, the CPSBC says the medical benefits of smoked marijuana are unproven and based on anecdotal information. Marijuana has over 200 active ingredients which can have positive or negative effects, and negative interactions with other drugs. Proven alternative analgesics are readily available. The CPSBC policy goes as far as saying Health Canada’s medical marijuana prescribing regimen does’t take into account the physician’s requirement to follow “evidence-based protocols.” That doesn’t mean some local physicians haven’t signed the papers in some instances, but don’t expect to show up with an ingrown toenail and limp away with a signature.)
Collette said the result is the potential criminalization of Revelstokians who have given up on the Health Canada system; others seek out doctors in the Okanagan who will fill out the Health Canada forms more readily.
A few months ago, the marijuana legalization debate wasn’t on the table in Canada. The ruling Harper Conservatives preside over the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, and have in fact stiffened marijuana-related criminal sanctions.
Federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s admission that he has toked up since he was elected MP has reignited the debate in recent weeks, signalling the issue could be on the table next time Canadians head to the polls.
What’s the mood in Revelstoke, I ask Collette.
Revelstoke has a deep conservative streak, she acknowledges. Marijuana users are stigmatized by some, called “hippies, low-lifes and useless people,” she said. “But that’s not the case.” They come from all walks of life, she said, but stopped short of elaborating – after all, she does have to maintain client confidentiality.
Sensible BC petition organizer Dana Larsen said the qualifying drive over the next few months is their highest hurdle. If just one riding fails to achieve 10 per cent, the whole thing’s off.
Collette is one of several petitioners in Revelstoke. As of Sept. 12, four days into the campaign, she had just under 10 signatures. With a population of about 7,500, Revelstoke will need to contribute about 750 signatures to fill its quota within the Columbia River–Revelstoke riding. Collette said the target is 15 per cent, to be safe.