David Schreck says Vancouver pot activist Dana Larsen is only seeking the B.C. New Democratic Party leadership in order to highlight the issue of marijuana legalization.
Schreck, a former NDP MLA and political commentator, made the statement after Larsen declared on December 29 he will campaign to succeed Carole James, the outgoing party leader.
“He stands zero chance of either being elected as an MLA or becoming premier,” Schreck told the Georgia Straight by phone. “So he’s seizing on the NDP provincial leadership race to raise his profile and beat on his drum for an issue that’s very legitimate—clearly we’d have a lot less crime if we legalized marijuana—but it’s a federal issue, not a provincial issue.”
Schreck described Larsen’s leadership bid as an example of “opportunism”. He said Larsen has declared his candidacy even before it has become clear what the entry fee will be for the leadership race.
“I would think that a serious candidate would wait to see what the rules are to qualify to be a candidate,” he said. “Those haven’t been released yet, and he may not meet the qualification. No other candidate has declared, probably because the rules committee hasn’t put the rules out yet.”
Larsen, a former B.C. Marijuana Party leader, defended his decision to launch a leadership campaign, arguing that marijuana legalization is relevant in B.C. politics.
“The province pays for the brunt of the federal drug war,” Larsen told the Straight by phone after his announcement. “We pay for all of the police and courts and prisons involved, as well as the social costs.”
Larsen rejected the suggestion that his NDP leadership bid is motivated by opportunism.
“I think everybody who gets involved in politics does it because they believe in issues and they want to make change,” he said. “I’m very serious about my campaign and about my leadership bid.
“I’m here to promote important issues that I believe in, and I think any leadership candidate is doing the same,” he added.
Larsen announced his leadership plans during a news conference held at a Vancouver Medicinal Cannabis Dispensary location in the West End.
Larsen, director of the dispensary, told reporters he supports an end to the “prohibition of cannabis”, saying most British Columbians recognize the “war on marijuana has failed”.
He also said B.C.’s minimum wage should be increased to $10 from $8 and tied to inflation. He added he opposes “giving away” such provincial assets as B.C. Rail, B.C. Hydro, and B.C. Ferries.
In 2008, Larsen stepped down as a federal NDP candidate in West Vancouver–Sunshine Coast–Sea to Sky Country when video footage surfaced showing him on drugs.
“I’m not particularly ashamed of the things that were shown in those videos, but I think that at the time it was appropriate for me to step down and not distract from the focus of the federal campaign,” Larsen said.
NDP president Moe Sihota has raised questions about Larsen’s eligibility for the leadership contest. Sihota told media on December 29 that Larsen wasn’t a party member and the NDP’s rules committee will have the final say on his candidacy.
Other potential contenders include NDP MP Peter Julian, who is expected to announce his leadership intentions in the next week or so.