The local chapter of a provincial campaign to change B.C.'s marijuana laws feel they are being silenced.
The Nanaimo Downtown Farmer's Market board recently voted unanimously to prevent Sensible B.C. from setting up an information kiosk at the Friday events. Sensible B.C. received a similar response in July when it attempted to set up shop during the Nanaimo Marine Festival's bathtub races.
During a time when Canada's marijuana laws have come under increased scrutiny, Sensible B.C. has been given the go-ahead by Elections B.C. to gather the signatures required to launch a provincial referendum on decriminalization in 2014.
Sensible B.C. will begin collection of signatures on Sept. 9. Should the group gather at least 400,000 names by Dec. 5, a referendum on decriminalization will be launched for Sept. 2014.
The Nanaimo chapter hopes to gather about 6,000 signatures.
"As a vendor, we are mature people. We don't have pot leaves or paraphernalia on our literature," said Sensible B.C. Nanaimo organizer Amanda Orum. "It definitely feels like we are being silenced."
The debate around the criminality of simple pot possession has revved up in recent weeks.
The Canadian Association of Police Chiefs announced on Aug. 20 that it would advocate for more enforcement options, specifically the ability to ticket offenders.
Current guidelines restrict police actions to either turning a blind eye on pot use or charging a person with possession - which can result in a criminal record and use of judicial resources to prosecute offenders. A ticketing option would "reduce the burden on policing and judicial resources," according to the CAPC, which opposes decriminalization or legalization of pot.
Federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau announced on Thursday that he supported full legalization of marijuana. Nanaimo's downtown market is not the proper venue for the legalization discussion, according to board members. "It's a board decision and that's final," said president Margaret Atkinson.
"We don't allow anything political involved on the market. .. The decision has been made, that's it."
The group received a similar response from the Loyal Nanaimo Bathtub Society in July, which said the group did not add to the festival's familyoriented events.
Sensible B.C. founder Dana Larsen said the campaign has run into similar problems around the province.
"It's a terrible hypocrisy. Many of these events have beer gardens and sell alcohol," he said of public festivals and events that have turned the group away.
Nanaimo RCMP's policy towards minor pot possession is to enforce the law.
Whether local police recommend possession charges to the Crown depends on age, area, circumstance and quantity of the offence.
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