Month of Highs for Canada's Cannabis Community
CANNABIS CULTURE - The Conservative-controlled federal government may be doing everything it can to crack down on Canada's cannabis community, but pot-lovers and anti-prohibitionists aren't taking it sitting down. This month has seen some major wins for North Of The Border bud-smokers.
The Liberals Join the Fight for Legalization
April kicked off with an informative panel on marijuana legalization organized by members of the federal Liberal Party of Canada.
The event was hosted by Vancouver East Riding Association president Mark Elyas and included Liberal MP candidate for Vancouver East Roma Ahi, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition Canada's Steve Finlay, Canadian Drug Policy Coalition director Donald MacPherson, and Cannabis Culture publisher Jodie Emery as speakers.
A week before that, Liberal Leader Bob Rae spoke out against the War on Drugs in some of the strongest language used on the subject by a party leader in the House of Commons. Referencing a study by a newly-formed coalition of health experts and activists called Stop the Violence BC, Rae called Conservative drug policies "dangerous".
"The medical officers of health of three provinces, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, and Saskatchewan, as well as perhaps one of Canada's leading public health experts, Dr. Evan Wood, have just written an article which states categorically that Canadian drug policy is going in absolutely the wrong direction," Rae said on March 28. "It's not based on evidence, it's not based on science, it's not based on reducing harm, it's not based on having a good effect. I'd like to ask why the Conservatives still don't have a good policy on addiction, don't have a good policy on mental health, and why they have a failed policy, and why they only have a jail policy."
Rae has been speaking with newfound vigour on the issue since his party voted overwhelmingly at a January convention to support a resolution calling for marijuana legalization.
Hash and Edibles Legalized for Medical Marijuana Card Holders
On April 13, a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled unconstitutional a portion of Health Canada's medical marijuana laws restricting patients to dried marijuana only.
That means med-pot patients are finally allowed to extract cannabis resins to make hash and edibles like cookies and brownies.
In the case of Cannabis Buyer's Club baker Owen Smith, attorney Kirk Tousaw successfully argued that the current laws did not further the government's interest in protecting the health of Canadians and forced ill patients to inhale smoke, which is considered more harmful than other methods of ingestion.
The judge has since given Health Canada one year to respond to the ruling. In the meantime, designated producers will stay in the same legal position as before the decision: not allowed to make secondary products.
Prince of Pot's Prosecutor Switches Sides and Joins the Princess
In a surprising and news-making move, the man who helped put activist Marc Emery behind bars and then denounced the Drug War (after being fired by the Bush Administration), joined Emery's wife Jodie at a Vancouver press conference to call for an end to marijuana prohibition.
John McKay, the former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Washington State, sat side-by-side with the Princess of Pot, former B.C. Attorney General Geoff Plant, and Stop The Violence BC founder Dr. Evan Wood, to advocate the decriminalization of marijuana as a way to help end gang violence.
See a photo gallery of the event on the Cannabis Culture Flickr page.
Though McKay said he's not sorry he helped the US and Canadian governments lock Emery away in a US prison cell for five years, he said he now agrees with the imprisoned Pot Prince that laws criminalizing marijuana use and production are harmful to society.
"Mexican drug cartels, dangerous gangs operating both in the United States and Canada, are all profiting from the black market that's created by our failed policy," McKay told reporters.
Most of Canada's major media organs had a journalist and camera in the crowd and the story was widely reported.
Canada Celebrates Cannabis with Record-Breaking 4/20 Rallies
On April 20, 2012, Canada took part in the global cannabis celebration known as 4/20. Record crowds packed protests (and fat bowls) in Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa and other cities to demand an end to Stephen Harper's draconian drug laws and to Free The Weed.
Vancouver's rally, the biggest one in the country (rivalled globally by only Denver, Colorado's event), was attended by over 20,000 this year, making it the largest marijuana gathering in the city's history.
View photo galleries from Vancouver 4/20 2012.
Libby Davies, Deputy Leader of the NDP, Canada's official opposition party, spoke passionately from the main stage about ending the War on Drugs (for the second year in a row – watch her speech at 4/20 2011).
"Vancouver. This is where the strongest movement is to change the drug laws and to call out what's really going on with prohibition across this country with the Harper government," Davies said. "We had to fight tooth-and-nail about Bill C-10, the mandatory minimums for our drug laws, and that bill was passed as you know and it is a real backwards step. We even see in the United States that changes are taking place and so we've got to re-double our efforts here in Canada to make sure these harmful laws are stopped and that people aren't criminalized for substance use."
Davies also discussed the struggle of Marc Emery, and talked about her respect for Jodie Emery's ongoing activism.
"I also want to give a really big shout out to Marc Emery," she said, "who's been a leader in this movement, and to his amazing wife Jodie. You know I follow Jodie on Twitter and I see all that she's doing and she's an incredible activist, and I know that she inspires all of us to keep working and work together."
Watch video of Libby Davies speech at Vancouver 4/20 2012:
A huge list of bands kept the crowd jumping between political speeches from activists including Jodie Emery, Dana Larsen, Chris Bennett, Kirk Tousaw, David Malmo-Levine, Marijuana Man and others, until the customary joint-toss and super-smoke-session at 4:20pm. Watch video highlights from Vancouver 4/20 2012:
As in previous years, vendors selling marijuana buds, hash, and edibles roamed the crowd and set up tents across the grounds of the Vancouver Art Gallery. The few police on-scene stayed mostly to the perimeter, making no arrests and issuing no tickets or citations.
Eight B.C. Mayors Call for Marijuana Legalization
Joining the growing chorus of experts from all fields calling for an end to pot prohibition this week were eight – yes eight! – sitting B.C. mayors. Municipal heads from Vancouver, Burnaby, North Vancouver City, Vernon, Armstrong, Enderby, Lake Country and Metchosin sent a joint letter to B.C.'s premier, Opposition NDP leader and BC Conservative party leader, urging the legalization of marijuana as a way to reduce crime.
"Given the ongoing gang activity, widespread availability of marijuana and high costs associated with enforcement, leaders at all levels of government must take responsibility for marijuana policy," the letter said. "We are asking you as provincial leaders to take a new approach to marijuana regulation. Our communities, our youth and our public finances will benefit from an evidence-based, public health approach to marijuana."
Next week, Vancouver's ruling municipal party is expected to pass a formal motion requesting Canada's cannabis laws be overturned, joining city governments in North Vancouver, Victoria, Vernon and Enderby who have done the same.
"Here we have a failed policy which is generating organized crime and causing harm to Vancouver residents," Vision Vancouver Councillor Kerry Jang told the press. Jang will introduce the motion to call for council to endorse the ongoing campaign of Stop The Violence BC.