Anti-pot conference panned

At the start of May, Vancouver was host to a gathering of the world’s top anti-pot propagandists, in a conference sponsored by BC real estate mogul Robert Bentall and his wife Lynda. The duo were working in partnership with a pair of Vancouver police officers, calling their foursome the International Drug Education and Awareness Society (IDEAS) (CC#36, Bad ideas, good ideas).
The two constables, Al Arsenault and Toby Hinton, are senior members of the “Odd Squad,” a group of Vancouver cops who produced an anti-drug documentary using footage they’d taken from interviewing hard-drug users on the street.

These officers had recently been to Florida, and had been inspired by an organization there called Drug Free America Foundation (DFAF), headed by Betty Sembler. DFAF is essentially a reincarnation of Straight Incorporated, also founded by Sembler, which applied a horrifying program of anti-drug mind-control and humiliation against youths (CC#33, Straight Incorporated).

IDEAS put on their Vancouver conference with the help of funding and expertise from Sembler’s organization, and she attended to speak along with many other prominent American and international prohibitionists.

Despite a major advertising campaign, the conference was almost universally panned by Vancouver media. This was in part due to the conference policy of only allowing in journalists who could provide proof of their previous anti-pot writings. Some media found that the only ones who would talk to them were the protestors outside from the BC Marijuana Party. Also, the extreme stance of the IDEAS crew, calling med-pot a “scam” and promoting US-style drug war, turned off most Vancouver reporters.

In the weeks following the conference, the Vancouver Police Department came under fire as their overzealous involvement in the conference was further revealed. An Odd Squad cop had personally chauffered Sembler to the conference in an unmarked police car, which is against police rules. At the conference, another cop had illegally displayed confidential information from the Canadian Police Information Computer on an overhead display during his lecture.