Sensible BC

I laud Dana Larson and his team, the Sensible BC initiative, in their energetic and democratic efforts to “… stop police from searching or arresting otherwise law-abiding citizens for possession of marijuana.”

It is an exercise in futility, however. While the draft bill proposes changes to provincial legislation and is therefore nominally in scope for a BC Initiative, it is also an attempt to legislate selective enforcement of the Criminal Code, which, I submit, is not. It’s a backdoor infringement on federal jurisdiction in criminal law. Even if the bill makes it to the legislature it is unlikely to pass, and if it passes it will be challenged by the federal Crown and ultimately struck down.

But the chances of this bill making it as far as the legislature are slim indeed. If the petition is successful the bill will be considered by the Select Steering committee whether to introduce it directly to the legislature, or to let it go to referendum. For the reasons noted they will let it go to referendum, where it will die ingloriously.

As a BC Initiatives referendum it will die, irrespective of any question of merit, because this process itself is fatally, structurally, flawed. Success here requires the support of a majority of Registered voters in two-thirds of the electoral districts, and a majority of Registered voters in the province. That’s “Registered voters,” I emphasize, not simply a majority vote. If the referendum could get a turnout as high as 60%, success would require a favourable vote of more than 83%. Extremely unlikely.

Even the HST referendum, so passionately fought on both sides, which one would suppose would have improved participation — and as a mail-in ballot didn’t even require voters to leave the house! — only managed a response of 54%, 54.7% of whom — only 29.4% of registered voters — voted in favour of the question. While the HST initiative was started under the Recall and Initiatives Act, by special legislation the referendum itself was not; if it had, it would have failed abysmally. To have passed as a Recall and Initiatives Act referendum at the given response rate would have required a favourable vote of 92.6%, not 54.7%.

Even if the Sensible BC petition succeeds, and then by some freakish planetary alignment the referendum passes, it simply means that the bill will be introduced into the legislature, just as the Select Steering committee could have done. But no matter how it gets there, if it gets there at all, the legislature is still not in any way bound to pass it. Again, for the reasons noted it is unlikely to do so, and even if it does it cannot stand.

So, best of luck Sensible BC, but I fear you’re flogging a dead horse.

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