Pubdate: Sat, 20 Jan 2001
Source: The Coast Independent (CN BC)
Contact:  Jane Seyd


Tune in. Toke up. Go vote.

Amid a distinctive waft of ganja that made boring policy discussions 
more bearable, the B.C. Marijuana Party officially turned on to the 
West Coast's impending provincial election last week from its 
headquarters on the Sunshine Coast. Groovy.

As political conventions go, the pot party scene was pretty mellow.

Twenty-five candidates spent the weekend hanging out down in 
Bonniebrook in pot pundit Marc Emery's living room, talking about the 
general unfairness of Canada's drug laws, the pain in the butt of 
police harassment and the basic idea that the government should just 
get off everyone's case.

There were a few of usual sort there - the Gulf Islands artisan into 
"medical plants," the young guy with dreadlocks and the stoner 
hangers-on. There were also people like Rob Gillespie, a 
self-described "business consultant," Libertarian and gun nut who 
says the reason he's involved is "it's none of my goddamn business 
what other people put in their bodies." Cool, Rob.

Besides a call to public service, another thing several of the 
candidates have in common is they're up on charges of marijuana 

Fortunately, criminal charges aren't such a big deal in the pot party.

Brian Taylor, the 53-year-old leader of the party, was himself under 
indictment for illegally growing hemp - a strain of marijuana with a 
low percentage of the "active ingredient" THC - in his backyard, when 
he was elected mayor of Grand Forks in 1997. Which just goes to show.

Or maybe it goes to show something about Grand Forks, a town Taylor 
describes as full of "Doukhobors, hippies and draft dodgers."

Dressed for the convention last weekend in a big cowboy hat, jeans 
and cowboy boots, Taylor himself looks more Marijuana Marlboro Man 
than a doobie-smoking flake.

At present, he's a cannibis capitalist, busy promoting a handy little 
device he's calling the Personal Growing Unit, or PGU for short. 
"Boy," he says, "I'm rubbing my hands together saying there's a huge 
opportunity out there."

Taylor won't say if he personally inhales.

"I don't think it's the kind of information that's relevant to our 
cause," he says. "The opposition would love to paint us as a bunch of 
Cheech and Chongs."

Marc Emery - the local host of the convention, who these days funds 
his Cannibis Culture magazine through the lucrative business of "seed 
sales" - isn't nearly as shy in confessing personal habits.

"I certainly have no problem telling people I smoke marijuana," says 
Emery, who estimates 80 per cent of his candidates are tokers.

But stunts like smoking up for the TV cameras are definitely being 
discouraged. Emery himself has dressed in a dark suit and tie for the 

It's all part of the election strategy - which along with the usual 
pot legalization measures, includes appealing to assorted right wing 
thinking with platforms ranging from "no new taxes" to promoting a 
voucher system for private-school education and coming down against 
gun control.

"I don't think there's much future in a left-wing vote," says Emery. 
"People who are hard core socialists or want higher taxes on SUVs, 
we're not dealing with them."

Forming a political party is a great attention-getting device, says 
Emery candidly. He should know.

Back in November, he organized and bankrolled the federal Marijuana 
Party campaign from the Sunshine Coast to the tune of $70,000. He 
expects the B.C. election to cost him around $100,000.

I locate the Sunshine Coast candidate, Dana Larsen - who 
distinguished himself in November by getting 1,649 votes in the 
federal election, more than any other pot party candidate in the 
province - cuddling on the couch with a fellow candidate.

As a "hotbed of cannibis sympathizers," growers and home to people 
like pot poster girl Rene Boje - on the lam from marijuana charges in 
California - the Sunshine Coast is one of the ridings being targeted 
by the party for a half-decent showing.

Larsen says he's ready - and appropriately fortified.

"I smoke pot every day. Vast quantities of it," he volunteers. "It's 
the finest quality B.C. and the Sunshine Coast can produce."

Larsen says he doesn't mind talking about his own drug use. "I can 
afford to be public," he says. "If everyone who smokes pot stood up 
and smoked pot in public, the drug war would be over."

"Overgrow the government," he says, smiling. " That's our message."
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MAP posted-by: Josh Sutcliffe