The Evolution of Cannabis Activism in Canada

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Cannabis activists from the Great White North come in all shapes and sizes, sharing the one common goal of ending marijuana prohibition. Now that legalization is almost a reality in Canada, what do these dedicated individuals who have spent decades fighting for personal freedoms do next?

Marijuana.com spoke with three legendary figures in the world of cannabis activism to see what their plans are post-legalization.

“I’ve been an activist for 27 years and been to jail three major times,” said Don Briere, owner of Weeds Glass + Gifts. Don has opened well over a dozen dispensaries in British Columbia and Toronto, and the number of active locations always depends on how many law enforcement has shut down.

Don firmly believes that Bill C-45 is too restrictive, but despite that fact, he is excited for the future of cannabis in Canada. “We’re optimistic. The courts recognize that we have a right for reasonable access [to marijuana]. Basically, the cannabis laws have fallen.”

Don already has plans when legalization takes hold in July of 2018 and he has no intention of slowing down. “We are going to keep fighting for our rights. [For example] reasonable access. That means you can come out of your apartment [to buy pot]and, hopefully, walk within a distance that’s the same as getting alcohol.”

In the end, once Don feels he is satisfied with the state of cannabis legalization in Canada, he is quite aware of what he would do next. “I would return from activism to lobbying and ensure that people can get jobs [in cannabis.]We have over 140 people working with us and that is just direct jobs,” he said.

Another activist who has spent the better part of her life fighting for cannabis freedoms is Jodie Emery. There is no denying that Jodie and her husband Marc have pushed legalization forward well before the government decided to do something about it. She too is not ready to put down her sword once cannabis is available in stores.

“We definitely need to have free pardons and amnesty for everyone who has ever been charged with at least possession, but ideally any cannabis offense that’s non-violent,” said Jodie. “If you’ve sold marijuana, or grown it, or have done what might be perceived as a large-scale cannabis offense, as long as there was no violence involved and it was a consenting transaction between adults then the only crime is that the law prohibits it. It’s extremely important that activism doesn’t end with the ability to open stores or possess 30 grams.”

The immediate work that Jodie is embarking on after cannabis is legal next July will certainly keep her busy, but what would she do once satisfied with the state of marijuana in Canada? Her answer is philanthropy.

“For me, I might want to just focus on business and the ability to have money to give to good causes. Things like prison reform and getting rid of punitive justice and trying to help communities recover from law enforcement, not just [for drugs]but all of it.”

Finally, there is Dana Larsen, who is one of the most unique cannabis activists in Canada. Among countless other efforts, Dana is the person behind the “Overgrow Canada” movement, where he went across the country distributing free marijuana seeds and encouraging people to plant as many as possible. This was in an effort to overwhelm the government with so many plants that they simply could not do anything about it. Dana is also a published author who has written an illustrated book on the history of cannabis in Canada.

Dana firmly believes that after legalization there will still be room for activism. “There’s a place for activism in lots of things that are legal or regulated in some way. For me, and I think for a good portion of cannabis activists, it’s actually broader than cannabis and always was,” he said.

“I consider myself more as somebody who opposes prohibition and drug war. I want to see an end to all prohibition and better solutions for all substances. I focused on cannabis because I feel that it’s the linchpin of the drug war. Although it took us 25 years, it’s the easiest one to get people to understand why it should be legalized, because [cannabis]is intrinsically safer, it has many medical benefits and is widely used.”

Dana added that he has done a lot of work to educate and push for the legalization of other drugs, something he is committed to seeing happen. “[Cannabis legalization] is a wonderful first step, but it’s only a first step in the broader effort of ending the whole drug war.”

Dana also feels that the fentanyl crisis that is afflicting Canada and other countries is a catalyst to discussing the end of the drug war altogether, and as an activist, he will make sure to be part of that conversation. “When people are dying, that changes everything. So many people have been touched by this fentanyl crisis now that I feel it’s going to start the process of helping to end the war on drugs and seeing that it’s really our policies that are causing this.”

Dana plans to continue what he does best after cannabis legalization, which is battling it out in the courts and doing whatever he can to bring awareness to the cause. “In terms of what I will be doing to help, I think the same combination of civil disobedience, court challenges, and awareness. I hope to expand the debate beyond cannabis over the coming months and years.”

For the moment, Dana is still hard at work with cannabis policy. He is the campaign manager for Mary Jean Dunsdon who is also known as “Watermelon.” She is running for Vancouver City Council in the October by-election in the hopes that she will be a revolutionary voice in the ongoing fight for cannabis freedoms.

Regardless of where the universe takes these three important figures in the cannabis landscape, they will undoubtedly be hard at work making sure that personal freedom of choice is something that we all enjoy. Cannabis legalization is certainly a win for the community and for Canada in general, but it’s clearly not the end of the fight.

About Author

Jonathan Hiltz has been a journalist, a TV producer and marijuana advocate for over sixteen years. He has a wife, two young children and lives in the Toronto area.

3 Comments

  1. While the coming legalization is great it is as the activists say still too restrictive. Dope should be treated like coffee beans in grocery stores. Already many jurisdictions sell alcohol in grocery stores. Imagine being told that your collection of single malt scotch could consis of a single 40 ounce bottle? What if any of the 4 plants you are allowed to grow get to more than 4 feet? Do you have to call the cops to report it and have them prune the plants back to 4 feet? Then there are the missing pardons for the poor folk that fell a foul of Reefer Madness.

    I remember when the very scary step of legal divorce “took the government out of the bedrooms of the nation”. No fault divorce after a three year separation!!! etc. I don’t know how many years it took to civilize the first divorce law.

    This what happens when you let ignorant know nothings, like Church Ladies and the Reefer Madness Crew write the laws. There will always be stuff for activists to do!

  2. I think it’s cute that Canuck’s are still too paranoid to comment on an article about pot. After all an overwhelming majority of votes gave the article a thumbs up. We’ve grown cannabis for years for our own consumption and never had trouble from anyone. Canadians are a very liberal lot but they just don’t want anyone to know.

  3. Wow
    So this one after I posted what I will repeat here but I laughed again
    Wow could i blast this author here to and give the rest or as I would call it THE REAL STORY
    But then who the fuck cares right ?
    I totally disagree with just about every word with all three pimps of pot written about here actually and more but well heck I will just post the same thing i already said and any that actually had an interest its easy to find …so i will not bother….fuck it

    Except …you Teresa are on glue and don’t actually have A CLUE …..
    NO YOU DONT

    Anyway…..here is my copy n paste
    Well as the man that in many ways made this happen here in Canada
    I laughed out loud when I heard this news actually
    That is the dumbest thing i have heard out of the bully brigade EVER PERIOD
    I can’t believe they can’t wrap their heads around…..just stop persecuting cannabis users….like they must of had a hard time when we legalized same sex marriage and some of them obviously still must have wanted to beat and jail some gays still ….wow
    Very telling mindset this shows
    I always said when we re legalized pot we would have the police jailing the fat because they need some one to bully don’t they

    But then my story ….which no one ever gets to hear it seems what with them these days even making me slowly disappear even from Google (750,000 links now down to 1200 or so )
    But in a nutshell with one quick point my disgust had me posting only a couple of things on Facebook over the last year or two
    One was how I should just douce my self with gasoline in front of Canada’s Parliament buildings so that just like the little girl here in Canada who killed herself over being bullied to extremes someone then may finally look at what i had been saying for over 24 years
    Then again I think about a year later I wrote ….putting bill blair the Toronto ex chief of police in charge of the liberals plan to re legalized cannabis while I was getting blackballed out of my liberal executive seat in a horrible undeserved embarrassing episode … was like putting willy picton (convicted vancouver mass women murderer ) in charge of the missing women’s inquiry here in Canada …..

    Alas a week or two later on.may 27 2017 my oldest sons 40th birthday someone attempted to kill me by firebombing my marina
    To shorten the story because I know from my 25 year effort getting re legalized cannabis policy what with writing and presenting the resolutions in so many party’s myself and being the only one in Canada elected to the green the ndp and the federal liberal party’s executives in one form or another as well as a founding member/candidate of the bc marijuana party and even Safer in Colorado that by and large people just don’t give a rat’s ass any way

    But suffice to say I am now homeless and had the fire capt in attendance tell me to my face that he was burning it to the ground after they snuck in to watch my place and me burn without sirens and would not even turn on the water to stop it nor with me begging for 2 hours even give me a drink of water let alone ask how I was but to hear the delta chief of police himself is on tape with the federal port of vancouver , my landlords for 15 years basically ordering them to become criminal acomplises to his crimes by destroying evidence for him and no one will do a dam thing about it is yes disgusting and obscene and as a disabled military veteran I am disgusted with this fake country called Canada and have to say the facts are the liberals vowed to re legalize cannabis on Jan 11 2012 I believe because I was there making it happen in Ottawa myself
    I then had to spend 9 months explaining that I recorded soon to be prime minister Trudeau with my spy camera admitting his own pot use and for those 9 months I said I would just release it as a YouTube video to help Trudeau find his backbone

    I was rewarded for my efforts doing it in 3 party’s at that point by some one as i say attempting to kill me and again for the second time going from a millionaire from bare handed long legal labour to a homeless pouper simply because of corrupt and criminal police and the ignorance of us doomed species called humans

    I hate their guts and will spend the rest of my days trying to expose what I just told all of you here ….so …its what ? 3 of us now know of it ….i guess …lol
    Cheers and good luck out there
    I wasted 25 years and every cent I ever made but I actually did it ….but i instead really should just have been a pimp of pot like emery and so many others who just lined their pockets and promoted themselves hoping some one would do the actual heavy lifting
    Well I did ….and i now wish I had not cared
    Yep I am and was a fool

    Cheers all

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