Pubdate: 30 Oct 1997
Source: Carillon (CN SN Edu)
Address: Rm. 227 Riddell Centre, University Of Regina, Regina, Sk. Can. S4S 0A2
Contact:  2002, The Carillon
Fax: (306)-586-7422
Authors: Michael Dobie and Sharon AschaiekM


MONTREAL (CUP) -- The movement pushing for the legalization of marijuana is 
gaining strength as a nascent pro-pot political party gets ready to run 
candidates in the upcoming Quebec election while Torontonians are being 
invited on the Can-Abyss train.

The Bloc Pot is being organized by 28-year-old Montreal musician Marc St. 
Maurice, a six-year veteran of marijuana activism.

He has collected the nearly 1,000 signatures needed to get official party 
status and is looking for 10 people to run for office. St. Maurice says 
lots of people have stepped forward, adding that it only remains to work 
out who will run in what riding.

One of those who has thrown his hat into the ring is Larry Duprey, who owns 
a pot paraphernalia store in Montreal.

By putting pot on the political agenda, Duprey says activists are looking 
for a gradual change in official attitudes towards marijuana.

"We've got to look at the edges of this law. We have to dance around it 
till we get to the centre," he said.

Charlie McKenzie, former chief janitor of the Parti Rhinoceros who now does 
human rights research for a United Nations agency, is a consultant for the 
Bloc Pot.

"Bloc Pot will engage at the provincial level because enforcement is a 
provincial jurisdiction. Bloc Pot can have an effect because of the 
polarization of politics in Quebec," he said.

St. Maurice says that electoral races are so close in Quebec that any 
percentage lost is a threat to the main parties. This will ensure, he adds, 
that marijuana will be an issue in the next provincial election.

"I'm confident we'll get a man in somewhere," St. Maurice said.

According to the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, the number of 
people arrested for marijuana-related offences has steadily risen over the 
past several years. The number increased to 29,562 in 1996 from 27,662 in 
1994, reports Now, an alternative Toronto weekly. And those being caught by 
the long arm of the law for marijuana offences are facing stiffer penalties 
because of tougher anti-drug legislation which the federal government 
brought into effect earlier this year.

There are also efforts in Ontario to raise awareness about the need to take 
a different legal approach to marijuana. Every Thursday night this fall at 
the Comfort Zone, a Toronto club, the National Organization for the Reform 
of Marijuana Laws has been spreading the word about the legalization 
of    marijuana.

"The Can-Abyss train is going to go through that abyss, hopefully pick 
everybody up, and arrive at destination legalization, whereby we remove the 
criminal records from these people," Umberto Iorfida, president of the 
organization, said. He adds that 1.2 million Canadians have a police record 
for possession of marijuana.

Iorfida says drugs are a health issue and the government1s criminal 
approach has backfired.

"We're treating [marijuana] as a criminal substance [when] we should be 
treating it as a drug," he said. "We should be sending people who mess up 
on marijuana or any drug, for that matter, to doctors."

He adds that he foresees the legalization of marijuana by the year 2000 due 
to government cutbacks.

"It will come because the country can no longer afford the so-called 'war 
on drugs,'" Iorfida said.

The Can-Abyss campaign is also raising awareness about the hemp plant, 
which is essentially the marijuana plant grown without the active 
ingredient which gets users high. There are, according to Iorfida, over 
30,000 commercial uses for this plant, and most are more environmentally 
friendly than materials and processes already in use.