The Marijuana Party hits the campaign trail

Jack Layton signed, `unauthorized` handbillJack Layton signed, `unauthorized` handbillLast week, NDP Leader Jack Layton endorsed pro-pot promotional literature that his party is threatening to sue over, and Marijuana Party candidates fired up their campaign.
The Canadian Marijuana Party is working a nationwide public relations push that includes some of the movement’s longest-standing activists, a handful of new-to-the-scene freedom fighters and some paper candidates.

Paper candidates are people who file papers to run in the election, but then don’t do anything but appear on the ballot. The strategy has positive and negative results. For example, a paper candidate can almost always get a few votes, especially with a catchy name like “Marijuana Party” on the ballot. However, such tactics fall short on impressing and educating the masses and the media.

On June 11, for example, the Daily Courier expressed discontent with the Marijuana Party’s campaign strategy. According to the Courier, the Marijuana Party had shipped out people from Quebec to sign papers in the BC ridings of Kelowna and North-Okanagan Shuswap and then shipped them back out to Quebec just as readily. The courier also pointed to the Okanagan-Coquihalla candidate, who didn?t want to talk to the media or campaign in his riding.

The strategy may still be a good one, but it isn’t guaranteed. The Marijuana Party hopes to capture as many votes as it can so that it can win a promised $1.75-per-vote from the government. The party’s ambitions hinge on their court case to overturn a rule that says they need to get over 2% of the vote nationwide to qualify for the cash.

The money would go to support the pot movement, promises Party Leader Marc Boris St Maurice, so even in a riding with a paper candidate, the vote doesn’t go wasted. The fact that the Marijuana Party is willing to spend money shipping candidates across the country proves that they believe their case will succeed.

Mike Foster

For a sure thing, however, Marijuana Party fans should look to ridings contested by longtime cannabis activists like Mike Foster from Ottawa, Denis A Carriere from northern Ontario, and Chris Buors from Winnipeg.

Mike Foster has been active in the movement for at least twelve years. That’s how long Crosstown Traffic – the pot paraphernalia shop and activism centre that he founded – has been around. Today, Crosstown Traffic rests just a stone’s throw from Parliament Hill. Over the last decade, Foster has worked with several local compassion clubs, helped them get on their feet and given them advice and support as needed. He has been a Marijuana Party representative since the party’s first electoral bid in 2000.

This spring Foster has been busy with his campaign in the Ottawa-Centre riding, making flyers, writing candidate profiles for local papers, fielding invitations to all-candidates meetings and doing interviews with major media outlets like the CBC. His flyers sport creative slogans like “Just say no to thugs, vote Marijuana Party!” and “Money can grow on trees!”

Like many of the Marijuana Party’s candidates, Foster emphasizes reaching out to other parties in the hopes of encouraging ever-greater support for weed-war reform.

“I try to network in the community,” explained Foster. “My whole concept is to put a good face on cannabis. I’d rather build bridges than make enemies.”

Foster has inspired many of the movement’s newer activists, including Stephan Salko, who works at Crosstown, has run with Quebec’s provincial marijuana party, the Bloc Pot, and is now campaigning in the riding of Gatineau-Gatineau.

Also with the Marijuana Party in Ottawa is Russell Barth, a founding member of the local compassion club and coauthor of “Mummy’s Funny Medicine,” a children’s book that explains parents’ medpot use.

Chris Buors

Chris Buors, another longtime activist who is stationed in Winnipeg, began his career when the local railway fired him for marijuana after he refused counseling “as a spiritual, not a medical concept.” Buors is a generous and moral atheist and libertarian who, in 1998, held Winnipeg’s first pot rally since the 70’s. After that he began writing letters to the editor, founded the Manitoba Compassion Club, organized the local Million Marijuana March and ran with the Marijuana Party in 2000. Buors was inspired to activism by the likes of Cannabis Culture publisher Marc Emery, paraphernalia shop owner Chris Clay and others, and is now considered the foremost spokesman for the cause in his province.

Like Foster, Buors is working the local media, making sure that cannabis issues are front and centre in his riding.

Denis A Carriere

Another Marijuana Party candidate, Denis A Carriere, was likewise inspired to activism before the formation of the party. Carriere remembers how Northern Ontario’s oldest medpot activist and movement grandfather, Doug Thompson, got him out marching for cannabis. Since then he has lobbied the local mill to convert to hemp, ran with the Marijuana Party in 2000, and asked locals to vote for him as “Mayor-wanna” of the town of Schreiber. In that election, Carriere faced stiff resistance from the authorities. He still does today.

Carriere’s riding is Thunder Bay-Superior North, one of those beautiful, rustic zones where the scenic allure masks a deadly anti-pot sentiment. “Anything in BC plates,” he warned, “police are pulling them over left, right and centre here. The whole north shore is one big hot potato.”

Carriere was recently harassed by cops who didn’t like his political affiliation.

“They wanted to see my driver’s license because I was putting election signs up,” said Carriere. “The principle of a school and the Ontario Provincial Police hit me at the same time. They didn’t want me to put up election signs in front of a school. Now the mayor of my town also wants to talk to me about removing signs around a school.”

It is typical of Marijuana Party candidates to have a more general interest in personal freedom than pot, and Carriere is no exception. His other interests include “getting off the grid”, and his home is a testament to his ingenuity in this regard. Outside his place, a huge solar-panel array turns to catch the light of the sun, which is stored in a closet full of deep-cycle batteries. In his shed are electric motor bikes for scooting to work and the store. His latest innovation does away with batteries and stores energy in compressed air, which he says is more efficient and less polluting. He also hopes to make use of compressed air to run engines, like that found in the recently unveiled compressed air car.

Personal Freedom Issues

Other interesting Marijuana Party candidates with a wider interest in personal freedom issues include National Slam Poetry competition winner John Akpata and dominatrix Carol Taylor. During a recent interview with Akpata, the Ottawa X Press quoted the poet justly venting about being shut out of all-candidates debates and other media opportunities.

“In Canada, especially in the western world, you don’t want to put a black guy like me on TV criticizing the system and trying to change an outdated law,” Akpata told the X Press. “It’s really scary to a lot of people that I am a black man with long hair and a beard who wears Malcolm X type glasses, and a poet informing them about what the truth is.”

Dominatrix Carol Taylor, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to have much problem getting attention. She is articulate, intelligent, multitalented, attractive and naked. But maybe not for the reason you think. When she was 17, she suffered a stroke while under arrest and police believed she was being uncooperative by refusing to move or talk to them. When she finally got to a hospital, doctors prescribed her pharmaceuticals with an unexpected side-effect: they rendered her skin supersensitive to the point that wearing a shirt can be highly unpleasant.

“Getting into my clothes can be like doing yoga,” she confided. “I’m not active as a nudist. It’s more of a comfort thing for me.”

While she uses marijuana to treat severe neuropathic pain that resulted from the stroke, she has another unusual medicine that she sees as equally misunderstood, or even more so, than pot.

“I depend on slaves to carry out my day-to-day functions,” says the professional dominatrix. “I especially need their help on days when I am practically quadriplegic. I help people too. Dominatrixes are not prostitutes unless psychologists are prostitutes. My most recent is a former crack addict, who was homeless when I met him. Now he is off the street and off crack because I noticed he was really addicted to female attention.”

Another not-to-be forgotten candidate is Marijuana Party Leader Marc Boris St Maurice, who is beginning a cross-Canada tour to promote his party. To find out when and where St Maurice is expected to appear, visit the Marijuana Party website.

The NDP: suing or supporting the pot movement?

While many eastern Canadian activists support the Marijuana Party, many in the west threw their lot in with the NDP, after NDP Leader Jack Layton was interviewed by international pot activist Marc Emery on POT TV.

Last week, however, NDP Federal Secretary Chris Watson phoned Marc Emery and threatened to “sue his ass off” over promotional cards that feature a photo of Jack Layton, quote Layton as favouring a “legal environment” and encourage Canadians to “Vote NDP”. The bizarre lawsuit threat came only a few days after Press Secretary Ian Capstick told Hour Magazine that Emery is not and never will be a spokesperson for the NDP. Ian Capstick, it should be noted, only recently defected to the NDP himself, after fleeing the sinking ship of Liberal MP Sheila Copps.

It was later revealed that on Monday, the NDP had released an internal memo stating that they had hired a lawyer to consider a case against the BC Marijuana Party, which Emery leads, and had filed a complaint with the Commissioner of Elections Canada.

To make matters more complex, after Watson’s threat of a law suit, NDP Leader Layton signed two of the controversial promotional cards at a Much Music event and told Emery supporters that he didn’t mind if they handed them out. His signature is clearly visible on the image of the promotional card included with this story. Later, at the same Much Music event, Layton reiterated his party’s strong stance on ending the war against pot users.

The NDP seem on the verge of getting the worst of both worlds. Their NDP leader’s clear support for ending the weed war is putting off the prohibitionists, and the party heirarchy’s wishy-washy lawsuit antics are putting off many anti-prohibitionists. Hopefully Layton will exercise the prerogative of a leader and get his whole party pulling in the same direction.Jack Layton signed, `unauthorized` handbill