HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Pot Advocate Announces Creation Of Marijuana Party
Pubdate: Sat, 06 May 2000
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2000 The Toronto Star
Contact:  One Yonge St., Toronto ON, M5E 1E6
Fax: (416) 869-4322


MONTREAL (CP) - Marc St-Maurice wants to have a pot party in the House
of Commons.

The founder and leader of Quebec's Bloc Pot - which garnered almost
10,000 votes but no seats in the 1998 provincial election - announced
Saturday he has applied to create the federal Marijuana party to lobby
for legalization of the illicit drug.

The fluently bilingual pot advocate said he hopes to lead the new
party but will gladly step aside if challenged by a more seasoned candidate.

"However, I don't think Pierre Elliot Trudeau would be interested in
leading the Marijuana party," said St-Maurice, 31, a bass player in a
Montreal rock band.

The Marijuana party is the culmination of a decade-long passion for
St-Maurice - a passion sparked by his first of several arrests for
simple possession.

The latest arrest came in February after a search of the Compassion
Club, a group with chapters in Toronto and Vancouver that offers pot
to people who are ill.

St-Maurice and another volunteer at the club were arraigned on
possession and trafficking charges.

He says he and the sizable portion of Canadians who have smoked the
drug don't deserve to be branded as criminals.

"My lawyer told me 10 years ago, 'If you want to do something about
it, get elected,' " St-Maurice said.

"Our anti-drug laws undermine our social fabric, alienating people
into the criminal element for using a natural plant - and that merely
breeds contempt for the establishment. It's divisive.

"I want people to know they arrested the wrong guy."

St-Maurice said the new federal party would be, to his knowledge, only
the third of its kind in the world - the others are in New Zealand and

He made the announcement during a demonstration Saturday in the
streets of Montreal, where many of 3,000 marchers smoked up with
impunity under the noses of city police officers.

"I've been organizing this event for seven years, and the cops have
been somewhat more lenient for the last three," he said. "Our cause
has made significant progress - but the war on drugs will only end on
the federal stage."

The march was part of a worldwide event called the Millennium
Marijuana March, held in 85 cities around the world.

Last week, Conservative Senator Pierre Claude Nolin said he expects
hearings to begin in the fall into decriminalizing recreational drug

Nolin, who freely admitted he has used marijuana, said current drug
laws are as ineffective as the ill-fated alcohol prohibition in the
United States in the 1920s.

On Friday, Health Canada announced it is looking for suppliers of
high-grade marijuana for clinical research trials to gather scientific
evidence on its safety and effectiveness in treating medical conditions.

St-Maurice said approval of his Marijuana party by Elections Canada is
only a matter of time, and that the new party will have no trouble
drumming up support and fielding the minimum 50 candidates if an
election is held this fall.

The Bloc Pot has about 700 members in Quebec, and St-Maurice hopes to
double the numbers with a cross-country tour beginning June 1.

"This issue is a hot potato right now," he said, adding he has
documented proof that at least one high-profile Canadian politician
called two decades ago for looser drug laws.

"But nobody - police, the courts, politicians - wants to take public
responsibility for changing these laws," St-Maurice said. "We want to
bring this issue to the forefront of public debate and help get out of
this impasse."
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