Pubdate: Tue, 21 Apr 2015
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2015 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Wendy Stueck and James Goldie
Page: S4


Some cannabis enthusiasts took the opportunity to urge people to vote
in the upcoming federal election

An annual demonstration on Monday brought a haze of smoke and
marijuana merchandise including pot-laced chocolates and marijuana
mango slushies to downtown Vancouver, where police monitored an event
that has grown steadily since its debut in 1995.

Political messages were also on the menu. Marijuana advocacy group
Sensible B.C. was on site to promote its "grow the vote" campaign, an
initiative to mobilize voters for October's federal election. The
group, which failed in a 2013 attempt to force a referendum to end
arrests for marijuana prohibition in British Columbia, has since
turned its focus to the federal scene.

"This is going to be the first real election where marijuana policy is
a significant election issue. We want people to make sure we don't
re-elect [Conservative Prime Minister] Stephen Harper," Sensible B.C.
director Dana Larsen said on Monday.

"We're very happy that [Liberal Leader Justin] Trudeau and the
Liberals are talking about legalization, and the NDP are talking about
decriminalization," he added.

Rather than backing a single party, Sensible B.C. will target four
specific ridings in B.C., Mr. Larsen said. So far, the group has
publicly identified only one: Vancouver-Granville, a new riding
created through an electoral redistribution process that began in 2012
and will take effect in this year's election.

The two declared candidates are Liberal Jody Wilson-Raybould and
Conservative Erinn Broshko. The NDP has yet to announce a candidate.

"Our goal is to elect the most cannabis-friendly candidates who have
the best chance of beating the Conservatives so that won't necessarily
be any one party," Mr. Larsen said.

Marijuana activist Marc Emery, known as the "prince of pot," was also
at Monday's event. Mr. Emery, who was released last year after serving
a five-year sentence in a U.S. prison for selling marijuana seeds,
said he would be urging people to vote but said 4/20 was primarily
"just a celebration."

"I'm going to mention that in my remarks but this is not a venue where
they're going to listen very attentively - because really, I don't
want to harsh their buzz, as it were," Mr. Emery said. "So today is to
celebrate and then I've got until Oct. 19 to get them motivated to

"Because it is true that fewer people in the cannabis culture vote
than in the regular citizenry and we have to correct that if we want
to influence the next government."

Jodie Emery, who is married to Mr. Emery and is also a pro-marijuana
activist, had sought to become a Liberal MP in Vancouver East but the
party rejected her as a candidate.

The Vancouver Police Department estimated about 15,000 people attended
Monday's 4/20 event. The department did not disclose policing costs or
how many police were working at the event.

 From the city's point of view, the 4/20 demonstration is one of many
events that require traffic changes and police supervision, Councillor
Kerry Jang said.

"Spontaneous protests happen without a permit," Mr. Jang said. "The
police have shut down streets to keep people safe and keep traffic
flowing wherever possible."

A website for the event said vendors could reserve a booth for

Mr. Larsen was hopeful the event would do more than provide an excuse
to openly smoke marijuana.

"We need to do more than just come out on 4/20 and smoke some
cannabis; we also need to come out and support cannabis and support
those who use it and actually vote to change these laws," he said.
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