by Reverend Damuzi
Election day drew closer in Canada, and a winter bloom of political signs sprouted up on the sides of roads and highways across the country. This election’s flowering included a harvest of cannabis leaves as Marijuana Party candidates posted their characteristic pot-leaf logo everywhere they could, encouraging a disaffected electorate to vote for an end to the drug war. The pro-marijuana message got through to many.
“I haven’t voted for 20 years,” said a grizzled man in a jacket that looked like it could have been worn the last time he made it to the polling booth. “But I made a point of voting Marijuana Party this time.”
It was a common story. Marijuana Party candidates were flooded with support from disillusioned and first-time voters, even while voter turn-out hit an all time low in Canada. This election, only 60% of Canadians made it to the booths, a decrease of 7% from the 1997 election.
“I think that voter turnout says a lot,” said Marijuana Party Leader Marc Boris St-Maurice after the election. “It was the lowest in history. Our party will gain from that in the long run. We give these disenchanted citizens a reason to come out and vote again.”
Pie in the face
Party Leader Marc-Boris St-Maurice hefted his pie high in the air on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. He was coiled to throw it at the statue of a supposed Canadian feminist heroine, Emily Murphy, but two police officers stood firmly in his path.
St-Maurice was attending a November 25 decriminalization rally organized by lawyer Rick Reimer, who had received a Section 56 exemption from the Canadian Ministry of Health to legally use medical pot. Speakers included drug-war refugee Renee Boje, and section 56 holders Stephen Bacon, Rob Brown, and Alison Myrden. St-Maurice also addressed the gathering, although Reimer had hoped for a wider range of political speakers.
“Each of the mainstream political parties were invited long in advance to appear there and express their views on medical use and Section 56 exemptions,” Reimer complained. “I spoke to the people in [Liberal Health Minister] Alan Rock’s office nearly a month in advance. Not a single soul showed up. They were all too busy organizing their victory parties.”
Despite Section 56 exemptions, medical pot is still a hot political topic, because only tiny fraction of people with cannabis-treatable illnesses have received an official pardon to use pot. And it is still illegal for dealers to sell marijuana medicine to the holder of a Section 56 exemption.
Right there on Parliament Hill, Canada’s capitol, was a permanent reminder of why the sick were still being denied proper and full access to cannabis medicines, a statue of Emily Murphy. Famous Canadian fighter for women’s rights? as long as they were white women. For the rest, she advocated sterilization and oppression.
An early engineer of the drug war, Murphy wrote a book called The Black Candle, demonizing black and Chinese people as drug-pushers plotting to conquer the Caucasian race and debauch white women with marijuana and opium. Her book described in lurid detail how cannabis reduced its smokers to instant insanity and sexual abandonment. Her sensationalistic tome played a major role in forming Canada’s current drug laws.
Hence Marijuana Party leader St-Maurice’s attempt to pie her disgraceful, towering effigy.
“After I tried to get by a couple times, a third officer started pulling me from behind,” recalled St-Maurice. “That’s when I pied myself. Then they arrested me. I asked them what they were arresting me for, and they looked around, and one of the officers had a little pie on his face, and they said, ‘that’s it, assaulting an officer!'”
St-Maurice was released from jail later that night, but still faces charges of assaulting an officer, despite his generous offer to pay for the cop’s entire uniform.
“I had a live pie there,” he joked afterward. “I had to defuse it? it was an act of mercy!”
Across Canada, Marijuana Party candidates found themselves excluded from media events that rolled out the red carpet for well-heeled, well-financed parties. These so-called “all candidates’ forums” were organized mainly by business groups like the Chambers of Commerce, but also by special-interest groups like Chinese, Jewish or Gay community associations.
“The Vancouver Business and Trade Association refused to allow me to participate, allowing only the four ‘major’ parties,” related Marc Emery, Cannabis Culture Publisher and Vancouver Centre candidate. “It really offended me. I am the only British Columbian businessman ever to be profiled on the front of Equity Magazine or the Wall Street Journal, and I was not invited to the event.”
Emery was also excluded from an all-candidates forum organized by the Vancouver Gay community. A community, says Emery, that should be particularly tolerant towards simple lifestyle choices like marijuana smoking. Similarly, David Malmo-Levine, Vancouver East candidate, was excluded from speaking at the Jewish Community Centre, and on various popular radio shows.
“They say you aren’t big enough to go on the TV debates,” explained Malmo-Levine. “But, as Ralph Nader says, the TV debates decide who is big and who is not. I think that if you get your name on the ballot you should be in every forum, period. It is a way of filtering power.”
Some high schools also balked at the idea of having a pro-marijuana candidate speaking. During the election, I was called into a high school in my BC riding and told by one of the organizing teachers that they wouldn’t welcome a candidate who advocated marijuana use any more than they would welcome a candidate that advocated “child abuse, theft or anarchy.” Dana Larsen, Cannabis Culture editor and Sunshine Coast?West Vancouver candidate, was also left out of a high school “all-candidates” meeting.
Ultimately, the censoring tactics of school bureaucrats backfired as enraged students became starved for Marijuana Party pins and literature, supporting the party as an act of defiance against a poorly orchestrated attempt to control their political will. Eventually, national media picked up the bungles, gathering even more attention for Marijuana Party candidates.
The Marijuana Party experience was the same political suffocation suffered by marginalized parties since the dawn of Canadian political history. All-candidates’ forums (featuring only a few of the candidates) are feeding places for the media hounds who concoct election coverage. Yet no aspect of all-candidate forums are covered by the Canada Elections Act, leaving them open to rampant abuse by event organizers. Still, wherever the Marijuana Party was permitted to speak, public response was overwhelmingly positive.
“I was the only candidate that was routinely interrupted with applause during my opening speech,” said Dana Larsen. “Other candidates sometimes got booed for their answers, but I got only applause.”
The greatest victory for the Marijuana Party came through the press, where grammas and grampas, school-children and parents learned the truth about cannabis.
“Most candidates got good coverage in local media like community newspapers,” said Larsen. “The higher you go up in the media scale, the less coverage we got, but we were still favourably mentioned in most national media.”
Although voting-day media coverage seemed to suggest that the Marijuana Party was inconsequential to the election, the numbers told a different story.
“To all the doubters and nay-sayers, they’ll want to eat their words,” St-Maurice told the Globe and Mail a few days after the election. “We take the political process quite seriously. And now we’ve got the mandate to fight for legalizing marijuana. The people who gave us their vote don’t want us to let them down.”
by Bianca Sind
Election results show solid support
November 27 election results vindicated Marijuana Party campaign efforts. Marijuana Party candidates established themselves as a viable alternative to the Green Party, and solidly out performed other “fringe” parties like the Canadian Action Party, Natural Law and Communists.
Party leader Marc-Boris St Maurice received 2156 votes (4.8%) in his Quebec riding of Laurier-Sainte-Marie, beating the NDP, Conservative and Alliance candidates, and coming within 14 votes of the Green Party. The Greens were represented by Dylan Maxwell, who once owned a hemp store in Montreal! Maxwell received 2,170 votes, making for a total pro-cannabis vote of 10% in the riding.
Nine other Quebec candidates also beat out the NDP, and the Marijuana Party outperformed the Greens in a half-dozen ridings.
Marijuana Party candidates outranked Canadian Action Party in every riding they both ran, and solidly outdid “fringe” parties like Natural Law and Communists, achieving 20-30 times their vote totals. The top ten ranked candidates were all located in Quebec, except for Dana Larsen in BC, who ranked fourth country-wide with 1649 votes (3%).
Candidates generally received 2-3% of the vote, typically ranging from 700-1200 votes per riding, with a low of 387 votes and a high of 2156. The party received over 65,000 votes nationwide.
Provincial pot parties
By Dana Larsen
Marijuana parties are forming across canada on a provincial level.
The federal election is over, but already Marijuana Party candidates are forming political parties in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta and BC. Meanwhile, the Bloc Pot, Quebec’s pro-marijuana party, is gearing up for the next election in their province.
BC provincial elections are to be held this Spring, and will see the newly formed BC Marijuana Party on the ballot. The party will be led by Brian Taylor, past Mayor of Grand Forks and long-time cannabis activist.
The BC Marijuana Party will be coming forward with a much wider platform, based upon the principles of “Choices, Options, Tolerance.” Platform policies include legalized prostitution, a viable ballot-initiative program and a voucher-credit system for schools.
“People can use their tax dollars to send their children to the school of their choice,” explained Marc Emery, BC Marijuana Party president.
“And we support a well-considered, viable ballot-initiative system to replace the impossible and unworkable system created by the NDP, after 85% of British Columbians voted in favour of ballot initiatives.”
The new platforms draw clearer lines between the BC Marijuana Party policy of individual autonomy and others like the Canadian Action Party and the Greens, both of whom adopted a stronger pro-marijuana stance when the Marijuana Party started making headlines.
With BC’s current NDP government looking at the possibility of losing every seat, and the provincial Liberals likely to sweep the election, the BC Marijuana Party stands to possibly achieve even greater success than its federal counterpart.
“Even if we don’t win a seat, it is quite possible for us to take second place in some ridings,” said Emery. “That makes us the moral opposition.”
? Canadian Marijuana Party Western Headquarters: (604) 684-7076; email [email protected]