What does legal cannabis mean for Canada’s marijuana political parties?

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What does legal cannabis mean for Canada’s marijuana political parties?
WATCH: Alberta's Marijuana Party is ramping up efforts in the wake of legalization and taking a look at provincial regulations. Adam MacVicar explains – Oct 18, 2018

They’re single-issue parties and often considered on the fringe of the political landscape.

Some would see the party names on the ballot and wonder if they were for real. Although the one thing they stood for has been accomplished, they’ll tell you the fight has just begun.

“Right now we’re going to celebrate victory and then we’re going to double down,” Ken Kirk, leader of Alberta’s Marijuana Party, said.

Kirk has been the leader of the Alberta Marijuana Party for 15 years; he uses marijuana to control his epilepsy.

“I might actually have a chance of living beyond 70, unlike the rest of the males in my family who had epilepsy, because I have marijuana,” Kirk said.

The party isn’t currently registered as a provincial party, but they have run candidates in Fort McMurray, Edmonton and Calgary in the past, all fighting for legalization.

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But for Kirk, it’s not “mission accomplished” with legal marijuana hitting store shelves across the country this week. In fact, Kirk believes provincial marijuana parties are gaining new relevance post-legalization.

“Most of the regulations for marijuana are going to be provincial in nature, and this means the provincial regulations are going to have to be monitored,” Kirk said.

Meanwhile, the federal Marijuana Party is also preparing for life after legalization.

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Based in Montreal, leader Blair Longley has been at the helm since 2004. Their party has primarily focused on reversing cannabis prohibition, and apart from the single issue of legalization, the party has no other views or policies; candidates are given the freedom to express their own views on other issues.

“The Marijuana Party is made up of a whole bunch of eccentric individuals who do their own thing,” Longley said. “Apart from saying cannabis shouldn’t be criminalized, they didn’t have to agree on anything else.”

At the federal level, the party is concerned about possession limits, restrictions for smaller marijuana producers not yet licensed by the government, as well as the differing policies between provinces.

“Outside of the area that it’s legalized, it’s way more criminalized than ever,” Longley said. “It’s not remotely close to what we’d like to see happen, or what we’ve been arguing for.”

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Like Alberta’s marijuana representation, the federal party is also trying to regain steam. In the year 2000, they had candidates in 73 ridings, and won 0.52% of the national popular vote; in 2015, they only had eight candidates.

Their main obstacle is gathering 250 valid membership declarations to Elections Canada every three years. Longley said if they can get the declarations, he wouldn’t be surprised if the party ran candidates in 2019.

But even if their concerns and support don’t translate into seats come election time, one expert believes the parties can still have a voice politically.

“They actually function more like interest groups than political parties, but they are registered parties,” said Lori Williams, associate professor of policy studies at MRU. “They raise money, they conduct research, they propose policies and they advocate for the government to change policies.”

Back in Alberta, Kirk is planning on doing exactly that. He told Global News on Wednesday that the party is planning on setting up a social committee, re-registering as an official party, and begin fundraising, all to have a voice at the table.

“Bascially, we’re going to have some Marijuana Party marijuana parties,” Kirk said. “So we can finance activism and monitor the provincial regulations.”


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