Election opens debate on pot

As Canada’s election day draws nigh, cannabis legalization is still a pressing concern for those who love their freedom. The NDP are positioning themselves to become Canada’s best chance for drug war reform. Still, there is much confusion around which candidates and parties are pro pot, and which are not.
The Liberals, for example, have adapted a technique used to hijack the environmentalist vote known as “green-washing,” by which a group pretends to be pro-environment when they are anything but, and the Liberals are using it to attract the pot vote. Call it “pot-washing,” if you will – it has the same stomach-dropping effect as realizing that you left your stash in your pants after you put them in the washing machine.

A recent Liberal bill that was inappropriately called “decriminalization” would have seen tougher sentences and more enforcement. A less well-known bill criminalizing stoned driving followed in the supposed decrim bill’s shadow. Both bills thankfully died because parliament stops debating and voting on bills when an election is called.

Pro-pot Senator Pierre Claude Nolin revealed at a recent Vancouver speaking engagement that the Liberal government knew these bills were bad, and likely delayed them with the intention of killing them. Yet still Prime Minister Paul Martin baits his election trappings with promises of bringing back decrim should his party be voted back into power. Pot lovers should see Martin’s electoral jaw-wagging on cannabis as a threat, rather than a promise.

Meanwhile, on the eve of the election, cannabis compassion clubs are being raided and put through the courts, and licensed medpot exemptees are being charged and robbed of their medicine. On May 27, RCMP stormed the Vancouver Island Therapeutic Cannabis Research Institute, a facility dedicated to medical cannabis research and a provider of organic marijuana for 390 chronically sick and terminally ill patients at the Vancouver Island Compassion Society. This week another Vancouver Island medpot supplier, Ted Smith, will also appear in court to defend himself on charges relating to his selfless mission to help Canada’s ill and impaired. Cannabis Culture has received further news that licensed medpot exemptees were charged by police and relieved of their medicine.

These attacks on our nation’s health are the direct result of Liberal policy, which has dragged its heels to provide a substandard medpot program that seems designed to fail and torment applicants, and which was only grudgingly created in the first place under orders from the courts. The only consolation for pot lovers is that the current Conservative Party is not in power, for they promise even more kissing up to US drug war policy.

The NDP provides a tangible alternative to Liberal pot-washing and Conservative drug-war americanism. During a nationally-lauded October, 2003 interview on POT-TV, NDP Leader Jack Layton referred to cannabis as a “wonderful substance.”

“There’s millions of Canadians who have tried or are using marijuana, either regularly or from time to time,” explained Layton, calling for an end to prohibition. “They don’t consider themselves criminals, and neither do their friends, neighbours or family members.”

Since then, at various appearances throughout the nation, Layton has come out of the closet on pot. On March 17, 2004 Layton appeared at the University of Waterloo, and when asked whether he had ever smoked marijuana, he replied “I never exhaled – that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”

Almost a week later, Layton appeared at an NDP benefit concert performed by Steven Page of the Barenaked Ladies, the Sadies, and the Constantines. Echoing the sentiments of many in-the-know Canadians, band members told the press that they supported the NDP because of Layton’s support for the herb.

Another week later, on May 30, Layton told reporters that the NDP might extend pharmacare to cover prescription pot.

“I’ve drawn a lot of inspiration from those who are tackling catastrophic illnesses and who are seeking the support for medical use,” he said.

Layton, furthermore, is no dummy to the politics of decriminalization. He and his party, especially NDP MP Libby Davies, worked hard to amend and humanize the decrim bill, with limited success. Davies in particular alerted Canadians that the bill was a sham and in serious need of revision.

Another NDP representative, Ontario MPP Peter Kormos, has appeared at activist demonstrations like Green Truth to speak against prohibition.

“Canadians from all walks of life and generations are enjoying trainloads of marijuana,” Kormos enthused. “The solution is to legalize it, regulate it, tax it and control it.”

Better yet, marijuana advocate and licensed medpot user Alison Myrden has been nominated as the NDP candidate in Oakville, Ontario.

Polls show that the NDP are on track to form a coalition government with the Liberals, and although the Liberals are pot-washers, such an arrangement would be Canada’s best chance at ending the weed-war from within the halls of power. The last time the NDP held the balance of power during a Liberal government was in the 60’s, and they used their clout to bring in Canada’s much-beloved universal health care system.

Still, there have been some setbacks within the party itself. Cannabis Culture Editor and former BC Marijuana Party Leader Dana Larsen lost an attempt to capture the NDP nomination in a British Columbia riding. In a second nomination attempt by Larsen, NDP members shut him out of the running altogether.

Regardless, Larsen still strongly supports the NDP, and with good reason. Although some of the ridings in BC are still dominated by an old-guard, he sees the party transforming and evolving, and strongly believes that the NDP is Canada’s best chance for drug war reform. With a front-line media presence, an anti war-on-weed policy, and a chance at helping to form government, the NDP gives Canada’s pro-pot voters the best combination of strategy and idealism.

The Canadian Marijuana Party (CMP) has also thrown its hat into the electoral fracas, and will help to keep marijuana legalization on the tips of everyone’s tongues. Although in the last federal election, CMP candidates didn’t win a single seat and only captured a small percentage of the vote, the party made good press and has the distinction of being more thoroughly dedicated to drug-war reform than any other. It is from the media and public relations successes of the CMP’s 2000 campaign that the NDP likely got their inspiration to make cannabis a mainstream election issue.

This election, the CMP has already garnered 104 candidates and aims to fill every riding it can. While it seems a bit redundant to run CMP members against strong anti-prohibition voices like Layton, Davies, Myrden and Kormos, Marijuana Party Leader Marc Boris St Maurice explained his strategy and goals to Cannabis Culture Magazine.

“The Marijuana party will end up funding Canada’s marijuana movement,” he said. “[The election] will translate into a big windfall.”

He explained that a new election law will give parties $1.50 for every vote they receive, whether they win or not. If the party were to get St Maurice’s projected 100,000 votes, it would receive $150,000. Currently, parties must qualify for the $1.50-per-vote funding by taking 2% of the vote county-wide, which the Marijuana Party is unlikely to have a chance at unless it achieves the difficult goal of filling every one of Canada’s 308 ridings.

St Maurice, however, says that the CMP, along with the Greens, the Marxist-Leninist and the Communist Parties are all challenging the threshold.

Another motivation for St Maurice is what he sees as the NDP’s low profile in Quebec. In order to keep marijuana issues at the very forefront of Canada’s media, he will personally run against Paul Martin in Montreal.

Above all, with voter turnout at only 61% in the last election, it is important for Canadian pot lovers to get out and vote on election day, to make their voices count as a call to empty the prisons of nonviolent weed lovers, to free our culture and to end the war on drugs.

* Excellent video ad comparing the NDP and other parties: www.pot-tv.net/archive/shows/pottvshowse-2710.html
* Marc Emery on Pot-TV promoting Jack Layton: www.pot-tv.net/archive/shows/pottvshowse-2707.html