Pubdate: Tue, 08 May 2001
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2001 The Vancouver Sun
Author: Paul Willcocks


VICTORIA - It wasn't the best day to talk to Marijuana party leader Brian 
Taylor. He'd had a root canal in the morning, and that was the good part of 
his day. Now he was struggling to write a eulogy for his father, who had 
died of heart failure days earlier while Mr. Taylor was campaigning in 
northern B.C.

But the amiable ex-mayor of Grand Forks was willing to take a break and 
talk about the party's election campaign, surprising both for its relative 
success and the kind of supporters the pro-pot party is pulling.

There are still lots of dreadlocks and dazed expressions when the 
"Cannabus" rolls into town. But mixed in with the hippies are 
businesspeople and libertarians who are attracted by the Marijuana party's 
fierce determination to kick government out of peoples' lives.

Mr. Taylor said the party has attracted conservatives -- including some 
senior Canadian Alliance supporters -- angry at everything from the 
education establishment to bicycle helmet laws.

"Government is interfering in our lives everywhere," he said. "What are we 
doing telling some little old men riding bicycles to the store that they 
have to wear funny-looking hats?"

The party isn't going to elect any candidates. But it's running at three or 
four per cent in some opinion polls, enough to make it a serious challenger 
to the Unity party, enough to ensure some 60,000 British Columbians are 
going to choose a party that would be a novelty in most provinces. (The 
party drew about 66,000 votes across Canada in the federal election.)

One difference is money. Party president Marc Emery is a cannabis 
capitalist with a successful magazine, an Internet pot-TV station and a 
marijuana seed business with a catalogue that reads like the Wine Journal, 
with lyrical descriptions of pot from around the world. He's running for 
the party, but more importantly he's putting up almost all of the $250,000 
in campaign costs.

(That's why the party could score the Cannabus, a political fixture that's 
hauled Bill Vander Zalm, Ronald Reagan and Jesse Ventura in past campaigns.)

But the party has also found a receptive audience. Mr. Emery is no hippie. 
He's a successful businessman with media skills honed in the aftermath of 
police raids on his operations. The Marijuana party isn't seeking the 
left-wing vote, he said, it's courting people who want less government.

"Our theme is choices, options, tolerance," he said. "We're promoting 
heavily in rural areas our opposition to Ottawa's gun registration scheme." 
The party also supports private health care options and a voucher system to 
let parents choose the schools that do the best job.

Mr. Taylor, whose last foray into provincial politics was a run against 
Bill Bennett as a New Democrat in 1983, said the party has attracted people 
who support free enterprise and free choice.

It's also attracted people who just don't want to be told what to do, 
especially by politicians they don't trust or respect.

That's no surprise to Eli Sopow, who suggests the Marijuana party's support 
is a harbinger of days of protest that lie ahead. Mr. Sopow is a consultant 
and a former reporter who worked in the last days of the Socred government. 
He said the Liberals will face a difficult time governing a disaffected 

His report, Ticking, Clicking and Ready to Explode: Middle-Aged Militants 
in British Columbia, is based partly on a provincial survey done in March, 
and it concludes the middle-aged masses have lost faith in big government, 
big corporations and even big environmental groups.

"They're like the guy in the movie," he said. "They're mad as hell and 
they're not going to take it any more."

Mr. Sopow found almost as much mistrust of institutions and willingness to 
protest among those between 35 and 55 as he did among students.

Gordon Campbell should keep those people in mind in the first heady months 
after the election.

The Marijuana party may be more than a novelty.

It may be the vanguard for a movement of people who expect the government 
to do less, explain better and allow more choice.
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