Pubdate: Thu, 03 May 2001
Source: Oak Bay News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2001 Oak Bay News
Author: David Lennam


With his small goatee and  brooding eyes, he looks a bit like Frank Zappa.

He wears a marijuana bud on his lapel as an apropos boutonniere.

On his opposite lapel is a huge campaign button with the image of a pot leaf.

There's no effort to conceal where Michael "Mik" Mann's political stripes 
lie. He's the Oak Bay-Gordon Head candidate for the upstart B.C. Marijuana 
Party - an affiliation whose slick organization has taken many by surprise.

While parties like the Greens, the Conservatives and Unity B.C. were 
dithering about whether or not to run candidates in the May 16 election, 
the Marijuana Party had already announced confirmed candidates for 70 of 
the province's 79 ridings (with a plan to blanket every riding by voting day).

The breadth of their electoral riding coverage might overshadow  the depth 
of their political intent, however. Many voters consider the B.C. 
Marijuana  Party to be a one-issue bunch that is using the platform of a 
provincial election as its soapbox to rally support for legalization of the 
smokeable weed.

Not so, says the 43-year-old Mann.

The B.C. Marijuana Party, he says, is able to float the promise of many 
issues in their pot.

"I could say one issue is the economy and how marijuana (legalization) is 
tied into it," says Mann, explaining that by legalizing pot and letting the 
provincial government tax the production and sale of it (and regulate those 
sales as it now does with alcohol), B.C. would become Canada's economic leader.

"I have a way to boost up the economy. How does it become a one-issue party?"

Mann echoes the line of party president Mark Emery when he makes a 
reference to pot equalling profit.

"It's not just about a bunch of people sitting around smoking pot. It's big 
business," he says, referring to B.C.'s multi-billion-dollar pot market.

"The Liberals are promising tax breaks, but I don't see how they're going 
to raise money (to replace lost tax revenue) other than with tax cuts that 
will generate  investment, and that doesn't seem to have ever worked. The 
marijuana issue is bringing in a natural resource worth billions that we're 
not tapping now."

Further, he says, a legalization of pot will save the billions of dollars 
spent on the government-sponsored "war on drugs".

"(This) is a huge dollar, win-win for everyone involved. Your taxes would 
be cut in half."

Mann says the basis of the Marijuana Party platform is in the words: 
"Choices, options and tolerance". A Marijuana Party government would 
support referenda to let the people decide what they want to do - directly.

The party logo reads "Change everything!"

He'd like to see the recall initiative revamped to make it easier for 
voters to turf out "bad" MLAs. Changing the rules to allow constituents to 
collect signatures on a petition with five per cent of the names of the 
voters in the riding, over a two-year period, should make recall workable. 
Right now, recall organizers need to collect 10 per cent of the voters' 
names within 75 days.

Originally from Toronto, Mann has worked on the West Coast as a commercial 
fisherman and as a Victoria Taxi owner-operator.

At present, he's semi-retired on a provincial disability pension and runs a 
small painting business.

Mann suffers from hepatitis C, which he thinks he got from a blood 
transfusion in the mid-'70s. As a result, he says, he depends on marijuana 
as a medicine and is trying to apply for the federal government's delicate 
Section 56 exemption, which would allow him to buy and smoke dope for his 
health. He's also a member of the Vancouver Island Compassion Society (a 
not-for-profit group that distributes medicinal marijuana), as well as a 
former grower and supplier.

News readers will recall that the Oak Bay Compassion Society offices were 
searched and then closed down by police last year.

Mann calls himself a risk-taker. He lists his hobbies as motorcycling and 
skydiving. As a young man, he raced Austin Minis. Now he's bold enough to 
walk around with a big chunk of cannabis pinned to the front of his blazer.

"How many people are going to go out in public and say, 'Hi, I'm a 
politician and I grow medicinal marijuana.'?"

There are those who believe he's got to be a risk-taker to bring his 
message to the conservative climes of Oak Bay-Gordon Head, where elderly 
residents in particular are likely to dismiss him as a fringe candidate 
without proper political credentials.

Mann, however, thinks otherwise.

He doesn't see seniors as his major detractors in Oak Bay.

"It's from people in my peer group, in their 40s and 50s with children in 
elementary and junior schools, and they're worried about the kids. I 
appreciate that."

Still, the consensus is that any political entity based on promoting 
marijuana consumption is unlikely to be taken seriously.

Mann is fighting to be included in some upcoming all-candidates' forums.

His party would like to tear away some of the mystique surrounding cannabis.

"It should be on the table, part of the mainstream. That takes away the 
whole stigmatization of 'Marijuana' Party. The saying is: 'We're here. 
We're high. Get used to it.' "
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MAP posted-by: GD