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Canadian Marijuana Party Forms

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Canadian Marijuana Party Forms: "Look Out Ottawa, Here We

Last Thursday, veteran Canadian marijuana reform activists
announced they had formed a national Marijuana Party. The
Vancouver press conference took place in an empty building
formerly housing the Cannabis Cafe, shut down by authorities in
May 1998 in an effort to quash open marijuana consumption. Party
organizers revealed plans to run at least 15 candidates in
British Columbia and more 50 nation-wide during the next federal

The new party's platform is simple -- to legalize marijuana in

Citing poll numbers, arrest statistics and usage estimates, party
leaders Marc Emery and Mark St.-Maurice told assembled reporters
that marijuana law reform is past due. "There are 7.5 million
Canadians who have admitted to having tried marijuana," said St.-
Maurice. This is not isolated in some narrow band of society of
alternative what-nots. The interest in political action is very
high, and the time is right."

St.-Maurice, 31, of Montreal, is the founder and interim leader
of the Marijuana Party. The new national party builds on the
work of St.-Maurice and others, who won 10,000 votes for the
"Bloc Pot" in the 1998 Quebec provincial elections. They hope to
garner ten to twenty times that number of votes in the next
elections, which must be held by next spring, but could come as
early as September.

Emery, publisher of Cannabis Culture, director of Pot TV and
owner of Canada's largest marijuana seed company, will head the
campaign in British Columbia, the nation's most important
marijuana-producing region. Along with emphasizing civil rights
abuses and the hypocrisy of the major parties, Emery also pointed
to the economic impact of marijuana production for the province.

Emery estimates that "B.C. Bud," as the high-potency local
product is known, is one of the province's largest cash crops,
worth up to $5 billion Canadian to the British Columbia economy.

"If the police campaign [to eradicate marijuana] were
successful," Emery asked at the press conference, "how could the
province possibly cope with a $4 to $5 billion drop in revenue?
That would be the most catastrophic economic event to ever happen
to this province."

Emery told DRCNet that in British Columbia the party will field
candidates primarily in urban districts and on Vancouver Island,
a pot growers' bastion. Emery said the party will make extensive
use of the Internet as a campaign tool.

With some two-thirds of Canadians supporting decriminalization of
possession of small amounts of marijuana, according to a recent
poll in the respected National Post newspaper, the Marijuana
Party is optimistic about its prospects, but also realistic about
what it can achieve.

"We don't expect to win any ridings (districts)," Emery, who will
manage the campaign in British Columbia, told DRCNet. "Our
objective is to shame the other candidates and the parties who
have publicly committed to decriminalization, but done nothing,"
he explained. "We will make marijuana a central issue and we'll
be unrelenting until they legalize."

St.-Maurice agreed, telling DRCNet, "The Canadian electoral
system is not geared for small parties to get win seats. We'd
like to see a system of proportional representation; with that
system we would absolutely win seats."

"What we're trying to gain is some real leverage and we'll do it
the old fashioned way, with votes, not dollars," he added. "By
getting voter support and quantifying the number of Canadians who
support marijuana legalization, we can gain leverage and generate
the political will to change the laws."

St.-Maurice, who is barred from the U.S. because of previous
marijuana convictions and who faces trafficking charges arising
from his role in the Montreal compassionate use movement, will
himself run, although he has not yet decided on a district. And,
he says, he would very much like to see Canada "send a wakeup
call to our neighbors down south."