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

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.

Comments (59) Add New Comment
Bruno15
Dude, you've had your 15 minutes ... it's time for the adults to start talking now ...
5
6
Rating: -1
East Van Arts
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.

6
6
Rating: 0
Chet
Ease up on the "Forest for the trees thing"
6
6
Rating: 0
Oltimer
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.
4
3
Rating: +1
Cannabis is BC's #1 industry
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.
7
6
Rating: +1
@Dana
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.
4
4
Rating: 0
Vince Shank
"...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!
4
7
Rating: -3
Dave Douglas
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.
4
5
Rating: -1
samlea
Ohhhh Dana.. stepping out on a limb and wiping up the people that don't vote.
6
4
Rating: +2
flowblue
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.
5
7
Rating: -2
Ram
Hey he does have a point, if we legalize marijuana in BC everyone can get stoned and be happy and the other things wont matter anymore lol. I think its time to go outside and light up another one (it always makes more sense then right) and start thinking up plan b.
6
3
Rating: +3
East Van Arts
Mr Larsen's own supporters make the best case against him.

He is, evidently, running for a provincial office, to change provincial law. Unfortunately for Mr Larsen, marijuana law is federal. Victoria can not make criminal law. Only Ottawa can do this. It is the Canadian system.

We can understand Tommy Chong, now an American citizen, supporting him. Mr Chong may simply be confused. In the US, criminal law may also be written at the state level. But not here.

Mr Larsen is a single-issue candidate running in the wrong election.
8
4
Rating: +4
Cannabis is BC's #1 industry
Tommy Chong is a Canadian citizen and lives in Vancouver. He also has a home in Los Angeles but he has been a Canadian his whole life.

Provinces control alcohol and tobacco, why not marijuana? BC could regulate and legalize medicinal marijuana tomorrow, by declaring medicinal marijuana growers and dispensaries as "designated health facilities" like they did with InSite.

BC pays for the cops, the courts and the prisons, I think we have the right to "just say no" the stupid war on pot.
6
2
Rating: +4
Stand up for BC
Didn't Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba all declare that they were refusing to enforce the federal Gun Registry laws?

If they can do that, then BC can stand up to Ottawa on their failed and expensive marijuana laws.

Without the marijuana growing industry, BC would go bankrupt. With taxed and regulated marijuana, all British Columbians could enjoy a lucrative financial windfall!
6
2
Rating: +4
For real???
I'm a student and I can barely make rent because tuition is through the fucking roof and and minimum wage was not increased in accordance with either tuition, my rent or the cost of milk and bread in this ridiculous city of plastic yogis with their corporate benefits packages.
So what does Larsen propose? Let's get high...To be fair, I am sure he realized how stupid he is making himself look. Its got to be some kind of a refer madness joke or something.
7
8
Rating: -1
RyanDee
-Less gang violence
-More respect for the rule of law
-Less clogged courts
-Police can focus on real crime, not flower crimes
-Reduced health care costs (less barriers to medicinal cannabis)
-Significant increase in tax revenue
etc.

It's the single largest industry in BC and it's left to the gangs? That makes about as much sense as trying to criminalize nature in the first place.

Also, I'm sure Mr. Larsen is well aware the drug laws are Federal, but most of the costs associated with its enforcement are incurred provincially, and those costs are likely to increase dramatically when Harper and the theo-cons finally ram through S-10.

B.C. can't change the Federal drug laws on its own, but it can lead the way by refusing to fund this ridiculous prohibition.
6
2
Rating: +4
realize too legalize
you guys really have no idea on how much money is really used to buy and sell bud in BC, these numbers are huge, over billions of dollars are going directly into these drug dealers hands. The drug dealers DO NOT want it to be legal because they wont be a market for it, because think about it, is there any black market for anything legal, no. Were helping dealers make way more money than the average worker and just making more product out there for them to fight over.
This isnt even including all the countless uses for hemp that we could use here in BC (http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/ncnu02/v5-284.html)
think about it and youll realize too legalize
9
5
Rating: +4
Stephen Blumstein
Even if Larsen is elected, decriminalizing marijuana would be a federal issue, since the provinces have no power to legislate criminal law, so this 1 issue candidate is bogus. Not only that, he has posters all over Mount Pleasant calling for the age-old" get tough on crime" approach which has always targeted the poor. Not.This lightweight thinks he can just enter the race based on regulating an issue that would paralyze trade between Canada and the U.S.A., and then add a few tidbits like the minimum wage or w.h.y., and we, the elctorate will buy it ??????? Think again bro, because the independents, the Pirate Party of Canada and the Anarchy Party are here, and waiting patiently for you to f....k up, and that will be easy cause you've already done it..Check out this facebook comment I sent to Kwan and Clark:

Mainstream and corrupt is not for the people of British Columbia anymore, and that's exactly what we'll get with any Liberal Party or N.D.P.leader who continues to make promises without a price tag we'll end up paying for.It's all about money, and materiality determines ideology for us all. If you're poor,lost and homeless or underemployed like most of us in this province, you'll want to support an independent party, like the Pirate Party of Canada, or better still, the Anarchy Party. Democracy is a sham to benefit the rich.Let's not go through this family first garbage anymore, especially since we have single males living alone, gay couples, extended families, separated and divorced couples.There really isn't anything such as "family" anymore. Check out the research.
However, after all we've been through, what with the disastrous leadership on both parties sides,the H.S.T., the B.C. Rail scandal and the Basi-Verk bailout, what else is new ? Well, Premier Campbell making promises with well over $200 million to provide housing, only to invest it in yet another interest accruing account in order to do a needs assessment we (the homeless see CCAP ) don't need. Then there's the 15 % tax cut promised and rescinded,the B.C. Rail scandal, all provincial politicians receiving perks from the $40 billion spent on the Olympics, a decimated public education system,and a grossly overweight privatized social services and corrections system(eg. the B.I.A.: who the hell do they think they are ? Property cops without a mandate ?) Witness the redesigned intelligence driven police state as evidenced by the Olympics and G20/G8 violence, and undetected surveillance all over Vancouver bought with Olympic dollars, to super-control and poor bash the politically voiceless. Do you, our elected politicians, really represent us, or your selfish selves ?
4
4
Rating: 0
Bailey Gottlieb
I wish everyone one would put there laughable marijuana stereo types aside and just look at the facts to see that Legalizing would bring major profit to the people of BC more jobs less crime and so on. I could go on about the benefits for a long time but thats not what this comment is about .It's sad to see people can't see this or even really hear what Dana or anyone else with the same message has to say and just make jokes about sitting around smoking pot or comparing him to your stoner building managers. Thats like comparing a successful well rounded person who was a drink once in awhile to the alcoholic with nothing down the road. It's time for people to put there cynicism differences and jokes aside and really listen.

and to the people listing of everything else that is more important than legalizing cannabis you are probably right and they are extremely important, but if we get this topic that keeps barging in because it is so extremely important to a lot of people, and has such obvious benefits. maybe there will be more time for these important topics and quite possibly More funds for bigger better change..
10
4
Rating: +6
It is major
I also am greatly impressed with his desire to see communications opened up and will help solve a great many issues.
Reminds me of the booze before it became legal as the costs of trying to stop the majority of the public from engaging was out of control.
Time for change and a industry that has much to offer for those who are sick along with the other obvious benefits of hemp and an industry that can create plenty of legal jobs because most of it underground not paying a red cent on taxes but neither is big business. Larsen is stepping up for the individuial where issues such as costly rents, and tutition will also get his full attention there is little doubt. Look at the big picture and not big business wants as greed dominates but the individuial voter is left out and is long over due.
6
7
Rating: -1

Pages

Add new comment
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.