07/23/2013 10:08 EDT | Updated 09/22/2013 05:12 EDT

Group Behind B.C. Pot Petition Rallies The Troops

A new group pushing for the non-enforcement of marijuana laws and appealing to the federal government for decriminalization held its first organizing session in Surrey, B.C., last night.

Sensible B.C. has received approval from Elections B.C. to launch a petition to stop police from cracking down on pot smokers in the province.

“It’s an issue whose time has come and if we want to protect the B.C. economy and protect B.C. jobs we need to bring our marijuana industry, which is a $6 billion industry — we have to bring that up from the underground into the mainstream where we can tax it or benefit from it,” said organizer Dana Larsen.

The group needs thousands of volunteers to begin collecting signatures later this year.

“I am here today because I don’t people getting charged — kids, younger youth out there that are smoking marijuana and they may have a bag on them or something, a joint or something and they get charged and they get a criminal record,” said volunteer Parm Athwal.

Much like the petition that triggered the referendum that ended B.C.’s HST, the Sensible B.C. petition requires the signatures of 10 per cent of all registered voters in each riding in the province in order to push the question to a referendum.

Larsen admits gathering the required signatures won't be easy.

"Things are really mushrooming and really growing quite quickly for us, but it's going to be a big challenge for us to get all those signatures,” he said.

Volunteers will start collecting signatures on September 9.

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