News / Vancouver

Pot legalization in Washington lights fire under B.C. campaign

Avid marijuana campaigner Dana Larsen said he is “ecstatic” that a grassroots Washington ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana use passed Tuesday night.

Initiative measure No. 502 passed with more than 55 per cent approval.

Colorado was also poised to legalize marijuana use, while a similar initiative in Oregon looked like it would be defeated.

The founding member of the B.C. Marijuana Party is currently smoking a path through dozens of cities, trying to drum up support for a similar referendum in B.C.

“I think it will be huge for British Columbia,” he said. “I think it will inspire people to recognize that if they can do it in Washington State then we can do it in Canada and in B.C.”

Larsen’s campaign, Sensible BC, is pre-registering people to sign a petition next fall to get marijuana completely decriminalized in B.C., with the long-term goal of pressuring the Canadian federal government to legalize it.

Under the legal requirements for a referendum, the campaign will have 90 days to collect the signatures of 10 per cent of all registered voters in every riding in the province — a whopping total of 400,000.

He said far from fearing the legal U.S. competition, the majority of illegal marijuana producers he knows in B.C. welcome the political shift south of the border. B.C.’s marijuana industry is worth an estimated $7 billion, but less B.C. bud has been moving south over the last decade due to the weak U.S. dollar and medical marijuana industry California, he said.

Larsen predicted the U.S. federal government will fight Washington voters’ mandate to allow state-licensed retail cannabis stores where adults over 21 can buy up to an ounce, so it will be a while before Vancouver loses its edge as a pot tourism destination.

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