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MARIJUANA PARTY CAUSES A BUZZ

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Date: Sun, 03 Dec 2000 18:38:50 -0800
From: "D. Paul Stanford" <stanford@crrh.org>
To: restore@crrh.org
Subject: Canada: Marijuana Party Causes A Buzz
Message-ID: <5.0.0.25.2.20001203183838.04f538f0@mail.olywa.net>

Newshawk: Marijuana Party Marijuana Party – Legalize It
Pubdate: Sat, 02 Dec 2000
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2000, The Globe and Mail Company
Page: A-2
Contact: letters@globeandmail.ca
Website: The Globe and Mail: Canadian, World, Politics and Business News & Analysis
Forum: http://forums.theglobeandmail.com/
Author: Ingrid Peritz

MARIJUANA PARTY CAUSES A BUZZ

Crusaders Took 2 Per Cent Of The Vote In 75 Ridings Throughout
Canada

Montreal:

With his hemp jacket, his car plastered with cannabis-leaf stickers
and a CV that includes stints running the annual Montreal Smoke-in, it
may have been easy to dismiss Marc-Boris St-Maurice as another fringe
candidate in this week's federal election.

But Mr. St-Maurice is commanding more than a modicum of attention
these days. In the wake of the nation's most apathy-inducing election
run-up in memory, tens of thousands of Canadians loped off to the
ballot box to vote for Mr. St-Maurice's party of marijuana
missionaries.

Running on a shoestring budget and a stirring slogan to "end the
persecution against cannabis," Mr. St-Maurice's marijuana party
colected 66,500 votes nationwide, more ththan half of them in Quebec.
In 21 Quebec ridings, the single issue party placed ahead of the NDP.

"To all the doubters and nay-sayers, they'll want to eat their words,"
Mr. St-Maurice said. "We take the political process quite seriously.
And now we've got the mandate to fight for legalizing marijuana. The
people who gave us their vote don't want us to let them down."

In the 73 ridings where it fielded candidates, the Marijuana Party
poled about 2 per cent of votes. Mr. St-Maurice himself placed fourth
in his constituency of Laurier Ste-Marie, a downtown Montreal district
represented by Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe.

Only the Liberal and the Green candidates did better. Mr. St-Maurice
fared better than the local candidates for the mainstream Progressive
Conservatives and New Democrats, and got twice as many votes as the
Canadian Alliance-suggesting that some people put the right to use
marijuana ahead of the right to a tax cut.

While part of the support was protest votes, some see evidence of
growing acceptance for decriminalizing marijuana in Canada. Polls
suggest that 8 in 10 canadians support marijuana use for therapeutic
purposes, and one in two support recreational use.

Senator Pierre-Claude Nolin, a Progressive conservative who has
advocated reviewing Canada's drug laws, has met Mr. St-Maurice and
sais he was not surprised by the party's showing on Monday.

"I was convinced they'd get noteworthy support in ridings where they
ran a candidate," Mr. Nolin said in an interview. "There's been an
evolution in public opinion. There's a lot more tolerance."

Mr. Nolin said he takes Mr. St-Maurice seriously, but the question of
legalising marijuana is too complex to tackle during an election campaign.

"I support what they are doing, but the issue is a lot bigger than a
political election," he said.

While popular local candidates helped the party fare respectably in a
handfull of non-Quebec ridings, among them Calgary East and
West-Vancouver-Sunshine-Coast-the party found it's most receptive
audience in Quebec.

The province already granted Mr. St-Maurice a modest political base
through his Bloc Pot, a provincial party that garnered 10,000 votes in
1998.

And analysts say Quebecker's tolerant bent makes them receptive to
non-traditional movements.

It was Quebec that spawned the Rhinoceros Party in the 1960's, which
at one time held the satus of Canada's fourth-largest political party.

"There's an openness here in Quebec to wacky things," said Claude
Gauthier, vice-president of the polling firm CROP. "When it comes to
certain values that are outside the mainstream, you can find fertile
ground in Quebec."

"In some ridings, a party like [the Marijuana Party] says more to
people than the NDP or the Cannadian Alliance."

The party's showing is also something of a personal vindication for
31-year-old Mr. St-Maurice, a rock musician who was busy filing
election expenses yesterday at his cluttered apartment-turned-campaign
headquarters in Montreal's arty Plateau Mont Royal district. In 1991,
Mr. St-Maurice was jailed for 24 hours for possessing marijuana, and
has vowed to reform Canada's drug laws ever since. "I was hearbroken
about it," he recalled. "I promised I'd do something about it. And I
wanted to do it with the dignity that the problem deserves."

In february, Mr. ST-Maurice returns to court to face possesion and
trafficking charges stemming from a police raid of the Montreal
compassion Club, a medical marijuana centre.
_____________________________________________
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