CANNABIS CULTURE – Just hours after Dana Larsen announced his bid for leadership of the BC NDP, party President Moe Sihota told the press the longtime marijuana activist was “ineligible” to run. Though the pun-loving press ran with the story, it looks like Sihota was just — wait for it — blowing smoke.
“He’s not a member of the party,” Sihota said, suggesting Larsen had allowed his membership in the party to lapse.
“I donate regularly to the NDP and have been a member in good standing for 7 years,” Larsen said in response to Sihota’s comments. “In November, I spoke with the BC NDP office to renew my membership, change my address and make a donation. The donation was processed, however, my address change, and now it seems my membership, were not.”
The apparent error was corrected yesterday when Larsen again renewed his membership and made another donation.
“As of this moment, no one can argue that I am not a valid NDP member,” he told Cannabis Culture.
Members of the cannabis community, including Larsen himself, wondered why Sihota would go to the press with the information instead of contacting the candidate himself.
“Moe Sihota chose to resolve this clerical error through the media rather than contacting me directly,” Larsen said in a press release. “That is highly irregular, and given the effect of his comments, not at all in keeping with the NDP’s commitment to democracy.”
In his comments to media, Sihota claimed Larsen has “also got a second problem. He was declared to be ineligible to run for the (NDP) party federally.”
Apparently, Sihota was referring to Larsen’s VOLUNTARY resignation from his 2008 campaign for MP in the West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky County riding after TV stations began playing controversial videos he made for Pot-TV.
“I think he has his facts wrong,” Larsen told CC. “I was never dismissed from the NDP as a candidate or in any other way. I’ve always been a member in good standing. It’s true that I voluntarily resigned as a federal candidate in the last election, but that was a voluntary choice I made because I felt I was going to become a distraction to the party. I don’t think that makes me ineligible to ever seek office or work within the party again, and indeed I have been very active within the NDP since that time.”
Several attempts by Cannabis Culture to contact Sihota for clarification were met with virtual brick walls. According to the BC NDP reception desk, Sihota “works out of a private office in Victoria” and is unreachable for comment.
“Mr. Sihota is probably too busy to comment,” BC NDP press agent Michael Roy told CC over the phone.
Larsen’s announcement was one of BC’s biggest big political news stories in recent days, generating dozens of (horrendously pun-tastic) headlines from the mainstream press and inciting hundreds of online comments — some positive and some negative — about the marijuana activist’s chances at becoming the NDP leader or Premiere of British Columbia.
A number of high profile NDP politicos, including former NDP MLA David Schreck and Former NDP strategist Bill Tieleman attempted to marginalize Larsen by trashing him to the press.
“He stands zero chance of either being elected as an MLA or becoming premier,” Schreck told the Georgia Straight.
“Mr. Larsen is a marijuana advocate from his political background and I don’t see that he’s ever been involved with the NDP in any serious way in the past, so one has to assume he’s looking for a little bit of publicity,” Tieleman said to CBC News.
“I’ve been a very active NDP member,” Larsen told CC. “Aside from trying to run as a federal candidate, I’ve been to about 20 provincial and federal NDP conventions across the country, I’ve helped to develop policy on cannabis and drug issues for the NDP in many provinces that we’ve passed through resolutions at conventions or through the council, and I’ve signed up many, many new members to the party. I’ve also worked closely with Members of Parliament like Libby Davies. Provincially, I’ve worked with Members like Nicholas Simons and others. The fact is, I’m a very active member of the NDP and will continue to be.”
Although he has many allies within the NDP, Larsen has found himself at odds with party brass in the past. In August of 2009, Larsen made headlines when he was refused entry to a party convention in Halifax by NDP national director Brad Lavigne for what Lavigne called “vote buying”.
“I had posted on babble.com and also on my End Prohibition website that if you are a like-minded NDP member and a delegate to the convention and you would support this resolution, then we would help you get to the convention if you couldn’t do it yourself,” Larsen told the press at the time.
That, according to NDP directors, was enough to ban him from the convention.
“There wasn’t any hearing or chance for me to explain myself,” Larsen said.
Political columnist and radio host Michael Smyth chalked Sihota’s behaviour up as another attempt to stifle Larsen and his message.
“Right now, Moe Sihota and the rest of the NDP brass are trying to figure out a way — any way — to stop B.C. pot activist Dana Larsen from running for the party leadership,” he wrote in The Province. “My NDP spies tell me the party braintrust immediately went into panic mode.”
Sihota has himself come under recent criticism for accepting a secret $75,000 salary as BC NDP President, provided by the trade union movement. This revelation was made public just weeks after former party Leader Carole James announced her resignation due to pressure from a caucus revolt.
Smyth said he thinks the “nervous NDP” party will “think of another way to stop” Larsen in an attempt to kill his leadership ambitions. He might be right.
Sihota, talking to the CBC, said Larsen “was already deemed ineligible to run for the party federally and the rules committee, which meets on Jan. 6, would have to decide whether he would be able to run provincially.”
Will the BC NDP make a new election rule aimed at banning Larsen from running?
HELP DANA LARSEN become leader of British Columbia – JOIN THE BC NDP
In order to support his possible campaign for leadership and be eligible to vote at the NDP’s leadership convention on April 17, potential members must join the party three months before the vote in mid-January.
“If you are not signed up by mid-January, you are not eligible to vote for me or whoever you choose to vote for,” Larsen told Cannabis Culture. “You must be a member for 90 days.”
Click here to visit VoteDana.ca.
Click here to visit Dana Larsen’s Facebook Page.