|Photo: The Vancouver Sun|
|Dana Larsen holds marijuana at The Medical Cannabis Dispensary, which he operates in Vancouver, in this 2008 photo.|
Longtime Canadian marijuana activist Dana Larsen has become the first candidate to enter the British Columbia NDP leadership race, announcing that he plans to make cannabis legalization an election issue.
Larsen, 39, officially kicked off his campaign Wednesday morning, reports CBC News.
“I support B.C. NDP policies which call for cannabis to be legally taxed and regulated,” Larsen said. “Cannabis is British Columbia’s biggest industry and it should be brought above ground.”
|Photo: Ric Ernst/The Province|
|Pot activist Dana Larsen at The Medical Cannabis Dispensary in Vancouver, May 2010|
”I believe I offer a fresh vision, a real alternative choice in this leadership race,” he told the media Wednesday morning, reports Robert Matas of The Globe and Mail.
Larsen was a founding editor of Cannabis Culture magazine, a former president of the B.C. Marijuana Party, and co-founder of the Vancouver Seed Bank and the Vancouver Cannabis Dispensary Society.
Two years after he pulled out of the race as a federal NDP candidate in West Vancouver after his pro-marijuana positions — along with a widely circulated video of him smoking cannabis and taking LSD — proved embarrassing for the NDP, reports Sam Cooper at The Province.
Larsen told reporters Wednesday he had quit that 2008 campaign because he did not want to distract voters from the campaign of federal NDP leader Jack Layton. He said he didn’t think running in a leadership race for a provincial party would be a problem.
“This province needs leadership that respects and listens to the community and that makes sustainable decisions based on evidence, not ideology,” Larsen said. “The B.C. NDP must be the party of ideas, not simply opposition.”
Larsen, who co-founded the B.C. Marijuana Party in 2002, also hosted an Internet show on a website run by party leader Marc Emery, who is now serving a five-year federal prison term in the United States for selling cannabis seeds.
Former NDP strategist Bill Tieleman pooh-poohed Larsen’s political ambitions to become the next leader of the B.C. NDP.
“Well, Mr. Larsen is a marijuana advocate from his political background and I don’t see that he’s ever been involved with the NDP in any serious way in the past, so one has to assume he’s looking for a little bit of publicity,” Tieleman said.
But Larsen said he’s been an NDP member since 2003 and has attended 20 provincial NDP conventions nationwide to enlist support for his marijuana legalization platform.
“I have met with a number of current and former MLAs and other people within the party and my supporters and I think I have a good chance,” Larsen told Tiffany Crawford of The Vancouver Sun.
Larsen wants to reform the ballot initiative process, and is making that a central part of his campaign.
“I’d like to see a system that was more amenable to getting more direct referendums in this province,” he said. “I think more democracy in the province and in the NDP would be a good thing for all concerned.”
Legalizing marijuana will also be front and center in his campaign, Larsen said, adding that it is NDP policy to support the debate.
“I’d like to see that become a higher issue,” he said. “It’s the province’s biggest industry, it’s entirely underground and unregulated and I think B.C. NDP should be pushing to tax and regulate and control and get us to benefit from this massive industry. I think the province has a right to challenge the federal government on this law and try to do things differently.”
Larsen said if he’s elected as premier, he would also raise the minimum wage to $10 and reverse the privatization of BC Rail and BC Ferries.
He said he expects to attract “a substantial number” of new voters who support his platform, including greater party involvement in policy and measures regarding sustainability, social justice and a shift in crime enforcement.
Larsen announced his intentions to seek the leadership of the B.C. NDP at the skunky smelling office of The Medical Cannabis Dispensary, where he sells medical marijuana to about 2,700 people who have prescriptions from their doctors.
Larsen is the first candidate to announce his intention to enter the NDP leadership race. The party is scheduled to pick a new leader on April 17.