News: Marijuana Party Prepared To Light Up Political Scene

News: Marijuana Party Prepared To Light Up Political Scene

News: Marijuana Party Prepared To Light Up Political Scene

Pubdate: Mon, 02 Apr 2001
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Author: Ian Mulgrew


When was the last time there were 79 candidates for a new party in this province, marijuana advocate asks

Steve Bosch, Vancouver Sun / B.C. Marijuana Party president Marc Emery, outside East Hastings headquarters, says the party is on target to field a full slate.

Brian Taylor, the 55-year-old former Grand Forks mayor now leading the B.C. Marijuana Party, says his candidates and platform will surprise provincial voters.

What began four years ago as a loose friendship of people under the umbrella of the Canadian Cannabis Coalition last year transmogrified into a bona fide political party. Since then, from the dreadlocked stereotype emitting a cloud of narcotic smoke to the sober senior seeking medical relief, Taylor says the pot party has attracted all kinds.

Marc Emery, former scourge of Vancouver Mayor Philip Owen for operating the Cannabis Cafe and Hemp B.C., is the catalyst of the movement to move the counter-culture above ground.

“I was wondering when you guys would notice us rather than that non-existent party, Unity B.C.,” Emery quipped when I gave him a call. “When is the last time there were 79 candidates for a new party in this province?”

The party ran candidates in November’s federal election and Emery was a wonderful performer at all-candidates meetings, embarrassing mainstream politicians with his well-delivered message of personal responsibility and entrepreneurial drive.

He got about 1,000 votes, and I bet, given Liberal Hedy Fry’s recent performance, a lot more Vancouver Centre voters wish they’d given Emery a chance.

A week ago, the party announced its entry into the provincial arena with a series of full-page newspaper advertisements. Already, it has 65 nominated candidates — each of whom lives in the riding they’re contesting.

“We have candidates available to be parachuted in if, for example, we can’t find someone in an extreme northern riding, but we’re on target to field a full slate of 79,” party president Emery said proudly.

A former Ontario bookseller, the 43-year-old today is the wealthy publisher of Cannabis Culture magazine, producer of the Internet-based Pot TV and a distributor of marijuana seeds through his company Marc Emery Direct. He’s turned to politics because of the persecution and suppression of civil rights in the name of the Drug War. That concern motivates the majority of the candidates — not all of whom are promoting pot smoking, in spite of RCMP fear-mongering.

Taylor, born in Oliver in 1946, is a good example. His father Jim managed fruit-packing plants in Keremeos and Kelowna and in the ’60s was a lay magistrate. He spent 30 years working with non-profit societies that provide services to challenged and disadvantaged children.

Taylor founded the Grand Forks Cannabis Research Institute Inc. in 1997 and is the chief executive officer of the firm that supplies a wide range of medicinal marijuana products.

“Marijuana prohibition has dramatically affected my life,” he said. “It has at times negatively affected my relationship to my children, it has restricted my travel, I have suffered discrimination and it has made me feel like a criminal in my own country.

“Members of my immediate family have been denied access to medical marijuana by the continuing inaction of the federal government. Ending this insanity is a very personal battle. I see first-hand the social and economic destruction caused by prohibition in my community … .”

Taylor said the party does have an image problem but he’s hoping the slate of credible candidates such as Mavis Becker will help change that.

Becker, a grandmother who ran unsuccessfully federally, is contesting the provincial riding of Langley, campaigning with her octogenarian parents. The 58-year-old believes the money spent on the drug war could be better spent on education and health care.

“It’s always easy to find somebody [who supports the party] who doesn’t get it, who’ll blow smoke at the TV camera or give them the finger,” he said. “That’s why my big message with everyone on the campaign is be dignified.”

And, dare I say it, the party has high hopes. With the prevailing anybody-but-a-New Democrat mood among voters, the three would-be serious parties — the Greens, the conservative Unity Party and the Marijuana Party – — each want to be included in the televised leaders’ debate.

Participating in the debate is key, since such exposure can provide enough momentum to make a huge difference in the results –as witness Gordon ( Flip ) Wilson’s performance in 1991 that catapulted him and the Liberals into the legislature.

But there are 34 registered parties in the province, so there have to be qualifying criteria. Emery thinks they’ll make the cut.

“I don’t see why we wouldn’t get an invitation,” Emery said. “One of the reasons for fielding 79 candidates is because I would assume we would then automatically qualify for that debate –otherwise who would care about a debate between Gordon Campbell and Ujjal Dosanjh: one’s guaranteed to win and one’s guaranteed to lose. There’s no suspense to that debate.”

Add the others, though, and I think it could be an entertaining free-for-all.