Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Know Your Fringe Parties XI -- The Marijuana Party

The Marijuana Party was founded by Marc-Boris St.-Maurice as a legalistic and organizational mechanism to promote and lobby for the decriminalization (and indeed, the legalization) of marijuana possession, cultivation and sale. The party looks forward to a time when the federal government's role in "pot cultivation" will be severely circumscribed. The only role that the Marijuana Party sees for the federal government is to use its spending powers to subsidize pot cultivation. Otherwise, once the yoke of criminal law is removed, all governance and regulation of marijuana should revert to the provinces and municipalities.

Of course, they're dreaming in technicolour here. Interprovincial trade, transportation, agricultural policy, imports and exports, customs and excise, and the Canada Health Act -- all of which would apply officially to decriminalized (or legalized) marijuana -- all reside within the federal government's constitutional purview. But I digress.

Nevertheless, the party's internest site boldly asserts:

Cannabis is a Federal law matter ONLY because pot is criminalized.

If possession and cultivation of pot was no longer criminal, then the only remaining role for the Federal government is to use the Federal spending powers to subsidize pot.

If marijuana was no longer scheduled on the Federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, then the only influence Federal law should have would be by using the Federal spending powers.

The Marijuana Party has no illusions about forming government, or becoming the Official Opposition in parliament. In fact, the MP has few illusions about electing an MP. The party deliberately maintains a sort of "loosey-goosey" approach to strategy and discipline, and instead invites its volunteers to be creative in their campaigns to promote decriminalization and legalization.

The Marijuana Party enables individual initiatives through decentralized participation.

Individual members are free to use their own individual initiatives to register their own participation.

Under "Party Policies" the Marijuana Party's internest site lists just two:

  1. Legalize Marijuana
  2. Legalize Revolution

Unlike mainstream political parties, the MP does not seem particularly worried about campaign volunteers going "off-message" or otherwise embarrassing the central party -- because there really is no "central party" in the traditional sense, and certainly no "war room". The object is to encourage people to try to influence federal politicians and parties, and to use official Elections Canada registration to help accomplish this.

In December, 2004, St.-Maurice stepped down as the leader of the Marijuana Party to join the Liberal Party. (What was he smoking?) Explaining his defection, St.-Maurice wrote:

I believe that if any party will ever legalize marijuana in Canada, it is the Liberals and I hope to bring my knowledge and expertise on this issue to help the Liberal party develop new policies, programs and legislation which address the marijuana situation.

I think there is wide support for marijuana reform within the Liberal party and I am confident that a large proportion of these silent supporters will come forward once the issue is pressed, and I look forward to working with them to bring about this positive change.

So, in other words, the Liberal Party was still in government; and as any good Canadian knew, you had to join the Liberal party if you wanted to have power or influence. Surely the Liberal Party's "Big Tent" would have had room for a "bong, pipe, and hookah" den. Wouldn't it? I mean, it's an awfully "big tent." They keep saying so, whenever they're pressed about their lack coherent and consistent principles. (But I digress.)

So, how does the Marijuana Party field candidates? Well, the party's website provides instructions for anyone wishing to run under the Party label. But essentially, candidates are virtually on their own. Those volunteering as candidates must acquire the official nomination papers, obtain 100 signatures of eligible electors on the nomination paper, find someone to act as an official agent, and find a qualified person to act as an auditor. Then (and only then) should prospective candidates obtain an endorsement letter signed by the leader of the Marijuana Party, and remit a $1000 deposit to the Receiver General.

In the 2008 campaign, the Marijuana Party is fielding eight candidates across four provinces (New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, and of course British Columbia).

It all seems harmless enough. And they may well have a good point to make about decriminalization for simple possession. Still, the marijuana decriminalization and legalization movement is not without its critics:

Well, here's to the mighty Marijuana Party, the 'radical reefer rebels'. So spark a spliff, stoke a toke, pass the chips, and we'll see you on election night. The 15th, right? Heh, I'm just messin' with ya, man.

UPDATE: Welcome Government Guru readers.

Photo Credit: adpulp.com

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