Legalizing marijuana “most important thing” for B.C., NDP leadership hopeful Dana Larsen says

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      The first declared candidate in the B.C. NDP leadership race hopes being an underdog will serve as an advantage as he pursues a campaign centred on ending the “war on marijuana”.

      Dana Larsen said today (January 10) that not holding an elected office could set him apart in a race that is expected to draw experienced NDP MLAs such as Adrian Dix and Mike Farnworth.

      “I think the people of this province would like to see a fresh alternative, and somebody who’s not just a career politician, but somebody who comes from the grassroots,” Larsen said in an interview at the Georgia Straight offices.

      “I think coming in a little bit from the outside gives me a fresh perspective and will allow me to help make the changes in our party that we need to be successful going forward.”

      Larsen is a well-known advocate for the legalization of marijuana. The one-time leader of the B.C. Marijuana Party founded the Vancouver Medicinal Cannabis Dispensary and the Vancouver Seed Bank, and helped start Cannabis Culture magazine.

      He received an endorsement from Canadian actor and pot culture icon Tommy Chong earlier this month. Jodie Emery, wife of jailed “Prince of Pot” Marc Emery, has said while the couple are not members of the provincial NDP, she and her husband support him as a friend.

      “I do believe in many issues,” Larsen said. “But I don’t mind being tied with the cannabis issue, because it’s the one that no one else is talking about, and it’s the key underlining issue that has to be addressed, or everything else will fail.”

      In addition to the legalization of marijuana, Larsen wants to see the minimum wage raised to $10 and indexed to inflation, and the referendum system changed to allow for more frequent votes.

      “I would lower the threshold for getting something on the ballot, to make it easier for there to be more referendums on issues of the day, so that...we can vote directly on issues,” he said.

      He also wants to give NDP members the opportunity to participate in policy debates online.

      “I want to start using the Internet and other means of communication to not only have delegated conventions every two years where we discuss policy,” he said. “There should be an ongoing continual policy debate within the party.”

      But even if he doesn’t have success in the provincial race, Larsen said it’s important to provide a voice to the cannabis issue, which he sees as being “tied into pretty much all the other major issues of the day”.

      For example, he argues, legalizing marijuana could lead to less gang violence, boost what he calls the “biggest economic engine of the province” through regulating and taxing the pot industry, and improve the health-care system by allowing more patients to use medical marijuana.

      “There’s nothing that legalizing cannabis would make worse. It would make a lot of things a lot better,” he said.

      “We can end this war in British Columbia, and we will, whether it’s now or in the future. I’m going to make sure that we legalize cannabis in British Columbia or die trying, because it’s the most important thing we could do in this province,” he added.

      Larsen was the first candidate to declare his intention to enter the B.C. NDP leadership race, which also includes NDP MLAs Harry Lali and Nicholas Simons.

      Juan de Fuca MLA John Horgan is expected to announce his candidacy tonight.

      Party members will vote in a new leader on April 17.


      The Georgia Straight's Shadi Elien interviews Dana Larsen.

      You can follow Yolande Cole on Twitter at twitter.com/yolandecole.

      Show 59 Comments
      post a comment

      59 Comments

      Post a Comment

      Bruno15

      Jan 10, 2011 at 7:06pm

      Dude, you've had your 15 minutes ... it's time for the adults to start talking now ...

      9 7Rating: +2

      East Van Arts

      Jan 10, 2011 at 7:46pm

      Silly season begins right on schedule.

      Legalizing marijuana is "the most important thing"?

      More important than forestry? Mining? The fishery? Agriculture? Energy? High tech? In a word, more important all of the resource industries essential to our success and prosperity as a people?

      More important than health services? Public education? Mass transit?

      More important than protecting BC Hydro from those who would take it apart, and sell it to the highest bidder? More important than strengthening the ALR? More important than ending the bullying and homophobia that endangers so many of our young people? More important than restoring support to arts, culture and sports? More important than a strategy to combat climate change?

      Really, Mr Larsen. Listen to yourself. To compare the 'need' to legalize marijuana with the demands of urgent public policy is just foolish.

      Perhaps you will soon tell us about the 'need' to eat chocolate and wear diamonds.

      8 8Rating: 0

      Chet

      Jan 10, 2011 at 8:06pm

      Ease up on the "Forest for the trees thing"

      9 7Rating: +2

      Oltimer

      Jan 10, 2011 at 8:56pm

      Best of luck Dana, though perhaps it might be a good idea to win an election as an MLA first to build up some representative experience before aiming for the leadership position which has a lot more pressure and responsibility.Dana is correct in suggesting that prohibition is harmful, illogical and based on pseudo-morality,however B.C.would not be able to unilaterally declare an end to prohibition. So short of seceding from Canada, all the provincial government can do to effect drug law reform is mandate priorities for enforcement and lobby Ottawa to consider changing it's outdated U.S. style war on drugs. Or perhaps Mr.Larsen can find an empathetic MP to table a private members bill to bring about drug law reform.

      5 5Rating: 0

      Cannabis is BC's #1 industry

      Jan 10, 2011 at 10:39pm

      Cannabis is our province's biggest industry, and contributes more to the economy than forestry, or the fishery, or any other single industry. Taxing and regulating cannabis would do far more to benefit our economy than tinkering with other industries.

      If you want money for the arts and money for education, then we need to start spending a lot less on prisons. BC will be footing the bill for Harper's prison spending spree, and that will suck up tax dollars which could be spent on all kinds of positive things for our province.

      Want to reduce gang violence? Legalize marijuana. Want to boost our economy? Legalize marijuana. Want to improve our health care system? Legalize medicinal marijuana. Want to improve our agricultural sector? Legalize hemp. Want to combat climate change? Grow more hemp.

      Dana is right, cannabis is the most important issue, and the one which the mainstream politicians ignore. He speaks the truth.

      8 7Rating: +1

      @Dana

      Jan 10, 2011 at 10:50pm

      Thanks for the laugh. Our apartment has a couple of pot head building managers, and I use the term loosely. Before the pot heads, the building had a pleasant environment and things hardly ever stayed broken for long because the building mangers were around and not holed up in their suit smoking pot all the time.

      Birds of a feather fly together and we now have many more just like our pot head managers. The pot heads running the building keep things going, just, and things get down eventually, on their schedule. Dana, you're a hoot. If I had my way, you and your pot head building manager friends would be on the DEA hit list in a cell next to Emery.

      6 6Rating: 0

      Vince Shank

      Jan 11, 2011 at 4:30am

      "...the cannabis issue (is) the key underlining issue that has to be addressed, or everything else will fail." Way to go, Larsen, you're making polygamists look normal. No wonder the NDP is tanking against the possibly most hated provincial government in Canadian history. These clowns could F up a cup of coffee!

      6 9Rating: -3

      Dave Douglas

      Jan 11, 2011 at 8:40am

      Yes East Van Arts but I would call it the "stupid is as stupid does" season and your right on schedule. The Forestry industry has destroyed the old forests and left them devastated, the Aquaculture industry has set in motion the same destruction of our coast lines, our current government is selling off our natural resources like apps for at an ipad store and all areas of public service including health, transportation and culture are severely under funded as you point out. Would you like us to double your taxes to pay for all the needed services and repairs or would you rather we get it from BC's second largest industry? I think its time people like you listen to the facts, 46% of British Columbians want cannabis legalized and properly taxed and regulated...the adults have spoken.

      6 7Rating: -1

      samlea

      Jan 11, 2011 at 8:40am

      Ohhhh Dana.. stepping out on a limb and wiping up the people that don't vote.

      8 7Rating: +1

      flowblue

      Jan 11, 2011 at 10:42am

      NDP sucks period. Talk about a desperate bid to get into politics. Gee more impaired drivers and more useless twits stoned living on welfare. yeah sounds like a hell of an idea. Do the pot heads really believe the crime rate would drop ? Doubt it.

      7 8Rating: -1
      LOAD MORE

      Join the Discussion

      To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.