The leader of Canada’s Marijuana Party will be in Vancouver on Saturday, November 29, for a special public debate about whether or not the federal Marijuana Party should join or ally itself with Canada’s New Democratic Party (NDP). Meanwhile, the leader of the BC Marijuana Party has already resigned his post to join the NDP.
Canadian Marijuana Party leader Marc-Boris St-Maurice, who opposes a merger with the NDP, is coming to the BC Marijuana Party HQ for a public discussion with Marc Emery and any party members who wish to attend. The meeting will be held from noon to 5pm, and will be broadcast live on Pot-TV.
“It is my belief that the federal Marijuana Party should not run any candidates in the next federal election,” said Emery, president of the BC Marijuana Party (BCMP). “The NDP is supporting a very explicit legalization policy, and I see no point in duplicating their efforts.
“I believe that by allying with the NDP in this crucial upcoming federal election, the cannabis community can effect the election of 40 to 50 NDP Members of Parliament,” added Emery. “The NDP could possibly be part of a minority government, or at least keep the prohibitionist tendencies of the Liberals and Conservatives at bay.”
Although he is a major sponsor of the Canadian Marijuana Party, Emery does not hold a position on the party’s executive and does not have a formal say in the party’s decision on this matter.
One factor likely being considered by party leader St-Maurice is that in this election, for the first time in Canadian history, votes will be translated directly into dollars.
Legislation passed by outgoing Prime Minister Jean Chretien changed the way Canada’s federal political parties can receive donations. The federal government will now pay all federal parties about $1.50 for each vote they receive in an election. Thus by not running candidates, the Canadian Marijuana Party would see itself losing many thousands of dollars which could be used to further promote their cause. (Also, corporations and unions are now forbidden from making any federal political party donations, but personal donations are still allowed.)
The left-wing NDP is Canada’s fourth largest political party, and the only major party with a formal policy to support legal marijuana. They currently have 14 seats in Canada’s federal Parliament.
Although they have never formed Canada’s government or Official Opposition, they have been part of a minority government with the Liberals, and they have often had a major influence on government policy. The NDP have sometimes been called the “conscience” of Canadian politics.
NDP on pot
In his 20-minute interview with Emery, Layton was very explicit in his support for ending the war on cannabis. At one point, Layton called marijuana a “wonderful substance.”
“Do you think anybody should go to jail for having anything to do with marijuana,” asked Emery, “whether it’s selling, buying, growing, or any of those things?”
Layton responded, “No, I don’t.”
“There’s millions of Canadians who have tried or are using marijuana, either regularly or from time to time,” added Layton. “They don’t consider themselves criminals, and neither do their friends, neighbors or family members.”
Layton said that the NDP are “in favor of modernizing Canada’s marijuana laws, and creating a legal environment where people can enjoy their marijuana in the peace and quiet of their own home, or in a cafe, without having to worry about being criminalized.”
Layton also criticized the Liberal government’s proposals to “decriminalize” cannabis possession without allowing people to grow or purchase the herb. Layton said that the NDP supported a system “that allows people to consume marijuana, particularly marijuana they might grow themselves, but also for there to be some sort of technique that allows them to purchase it safely, knowing what the quality is, knowing what’s there, and to have that all be a legal activity.”
Layton pointed out that, during the NDP’s last leadership convention, every other leadership candidate had also expressed support for liberalizing Canada’s cannabis laws. “This is pretty ingrained in our party,” said Layton.
The Canadian Marijuana Party and the BC Marijuana Party are two separate, but allied, organizations.
The Canadian Marijuana Party is based most strongly in Quebec, developing initially from the members and organization of Quebec’s Bloc Pot, which was Canada’s first pro-pot party, founded in 1998. Marc Boris St-Maurice was the first leader of the Bloc Pot, and now serves as leader of the Canadian Marijuana Party.
The federal party has a simple platform based solely on legal marijuana and proportional representation. They ran 73 candidates in Canada’s 2000 federal election, and received about 65,000 votes nationwide.
The BC Marijuana Party (BCMP) was founded by Marc Emery, who now serves as party president. The BCMP ran a complete slate of 79 candidates in BC’s 2001 election. The BCMP has a broader platform than the federal party, based on principles of tolerance, compassion and personal freedom.
Dana Larsen, editor of Cannabis Culture magazine since its first issue in 1995, was a founding member of both the Canadian and BC Marijuana Parties, and he has served as leader of the BCMP since shortly after the 2001 election. In late November, Larsen announced his resignation from both Marijuana Parties, so that he could officially join the NDP.
“I have decided to join the NDP, and it is my intention to run as the NDP candidate in my riding of West Vancouver – Sunshine Coast,” said Larsen in an interview with Cannabis Culture. “The nomination meetings are still a few months away, but I have received the endorsement of the NDP candidate who ran here in the last federal election, and other key members of the local NDP.”
Larsen says he will be having a press conference in Powell River on November 27, to officially sign his NDP membership papers.
“I am sad to leave behind the political institutions that I helped found, but I am also very excited about working within the NDP, to have input into their marijuana policy, and running as a candidate,” added Larsen. “Although my riding is a difficult one for an NDP candidate to win, I am confident that we will be able to bring many new members and voters into the party.”
“Their strong pro-legalization policy is not the only reason I am joining the NDP,” added Larsen. “I am also impressed by their commitment to Canadian sovereignty, their active support for proportional representation, and their willingness to seek innovative solutions to tough problems.”
The BCMP will hold a leadership convention in September 2004, to choose a new leader for the next BC provincial election in 2005.
* New Democratic Party (NDP): tel 613-236-3613; www.ndp.ca
* NDP Leader Jack Layton interviewed on Pot-TV: www.pot-tv.net/shows/2271
* Jack Layton’s marijuana-related media clippings: www.mapinc.org/people/Jack Layton
* About Jack Layton: www.ndp.ca/leader/index.php3?language=english
* Email Jack Layton: [email protected]
* Canadian Marijuana Party: www.marijuanaparty.ca
* BC Marijuana Party: www.bcmarijuanaparty.ca
* Special website for the unofficial legalization wing of the NDP: www.ndpot.ca
* Marc Emery discusses the NDP on Pot-TV: www.pot-tv.net/shows/2314.html