NDP Marijuana Activist Booted Out Of Halifax Convention

Marijuana activist Dana Larsen with NDP Party Leader Jack Layton.Marijuana activist Dana Larsen with NDP Party Leader Jack Layton.CANNABIS CULTURE – Dana Larsen, organizer of End Prohibition, an 800-strong organization within the NDP membership, has been banned from the annual NDP convention this weekend at the Halifax Convention Center.

The NDP claim Larsen was “attempting to buy votes” of fellow delegates by offering to assist in the transportation costs of fellow delegates if they were short on money to attend. Delegates are chosen by constituency associations or by recognized associations within the NDP, like Young New Democrats.

Larsen, a former editor of Cannabis Culture Magazine, has been an active member of the New Democratic Party since Jack Layton volunteered to visit me, CC publisher Marc Emery, at my home in October 2003. Layton recorded a video for POT.TV encouraging people in the Canadian cannabis culture to join his party and get involved. Layton had become leader of the NDP earlier in 2003 and visited my house that October day to widen the appeal of the NDP to young people and drug law reformers. Watch the video from POT.TV here.

Dana Larsen joined the Sunshine Coast NDP riding association shortly after and worked on the 2004, 2006 and 2008 campaigns. Larsen won the NDP nomination for Sunshine Coast-Sea-To-sky Country for the October 2008 federal election, but NDP election coordinator Gerry Scott ordered Larsen to resign after media began showing video from Larsen’s days as editor of Cannabis Culture Magazine, including footage showing him enthusiastically smoking marijuana joints.

Since 2005, Dana had organized 800 members of the NDP into a group called End Prohibition. Dana Larsen attended all provincial NDP conventions since 2006 and at each one succeeded in introducing and passing resolutions, all aimed at reforming the prohibition on marijuana and other banned substances.

The Halifax annual NDP convention is taking place this Friday to Sunday, and Dana Larsen and END Prohibition have resolutions in contention, seconded by various constituency associations across Canada.

Larsen has been active in 12 previous NDP provincial and national conventions. He considers himself to have allies in NDP MP’s Bill Siksay and Libby Davies. Davies was to introduce Larsen’s resolution that calls for the NDP to adopt a clear, detailed policy calling for non-punitive regulation of the cannabis industry and the distribution of cannabis.
Suddenly, earlier this week, the NDP party brass dispatched Davies to the Middle East as part of a parliamentary fact-finding mission, even though she was scheduled to speak at the convention this weekend.

NDP National Director Brad Lavigne.NDP National Director Brad Lavigne.Bill Siksay was to replace Davies in speaking to the motion at the NDP resolution prioritization meeting, which is being held on Friday morning outside the convention, as the call to order does not come into effect until Saturday morning. This decision to hold the prioritization of resolutions meeting on Friday, before the NDP delegates have arrived and been called to order is illegal. Many delegates won’t have arrived by Friday morning, and since it is not on the convention agenda, many wouldn’t even be aware of it. The reason for this is that Dana Larsen expects over 150 delegates who are his allies to be at the convention on Saturday, and the NDP is trying desperately to sideline Larsen’s increasing clout and presence in the NDP.

Dana was denied advertising in the convention booklet for END Prohibition, and then denied access to a table at the convention for End Prohibition literature and publications, and then informed this morning by email that by order of the NDP National Director Brad Lavigne (mobile phone 613.292.8015), he was banned from the convention as a delegate and observer for “attempting to buy votes”.

I interviewed Larsen today and asked him what Lavigne meant by that.

“I offered to help pay the transportation of some of the delegates who were having difficulty doing so,” he responded. “But I’ve checked the rules – the unions bus people to conventions all the time, and plane fare is paid for – for hotels, the union delegates are assisted considerably. You can’t make assistance to a delegate contingent on how they vote, and of course, I haven’t done that. So they are inventing these rules as they see necessary to curtail my influence at this convention.”

Larsen will still be at the Halifax Convention Centre, if only in the hallways co-ordinating his allies inside the convention.

“I’m a loyal NDP member; I still am,” Larsen said when I asked about this brazen usurpation of democracy. “What they’re doing is wrong but it won’t drive me out of the party. I’ll be at the convention, but now the pundits and media have something to write about that will cause Lavigne’s action to backfire. Our resolution will be more talked about, while the Executive attempting these undemocratic backroom moves will only encourage cynicism about the NDP’s commitment to democracy within its own party.”