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Marijuana advocates play it straight

By Hempology | March 18, 2003

From the Times Colonist, March 18, 2003

By Richard Watts

“Tune in, turn on and drop out” was the drug-culture slogan of the 1960s,
but today’s marijuana advocates never talk about dropping out.

In contrast, at the fourth annual convention Monday of Hempology 101,
Victoria’s most high-profile advocate group for marijuana legalization,
speaker after speaker told of their battles working within the system.

They are generating pulbicity in the media, passing along information
on the Web and working in the court system. and it’s all to make their point
that marijuana should not be a criminally banned substance.

You could even go one step further and say today’s marijuana advocates
believe strongly in the system itself.

“We believe strongly in a civil, orderly, peaceful society,” said Ted
Smith, founder of Hempology 101. “We wouldn’t operate from a storefront
if we didn’t.”

Smith and others with Hempology 101 have operated the Cannabis Buyers’
Club of Canada, selling marijuana to people with a permanent medical
condition. Customers need only show ID and a doctor’s note.

The club operates openly from a storefront on Johnson Street and even has
an application at city hall for a business license. However, police have
busted it four times within the last year and Smith is facing several
trafficking charges which he is challenging on constitutional grounds.

Constitutional challenges to the marijuana law are a mainstay of the
pro-marijuana movement. They are all based on reasoned, researched
points argued in court.

“I know my way around the system,” said David Malmo-Levine, who is getting
set to argue his drug-charge case in front of a the Supreme Court of Canada

“I don’t want to overthrow the government. I want to over-grow the
government,” said Malmo-Levine, a Vancouver activist who formed the
1,800-member Harm Reduction Club for marijuana smokers.

Randy Caine, who will also be taking his appeal to the Supreme Court of
Canada soon, said he actually considers himself a strong advocate for the
Canadian community at large. What Caine opposes is government drug policy.

He said he was busted 10 years ago in White Rock for a roach, a smoked-out
butt end of a marijuana cigarette.

As a family man with two daughters, Caine said he didn’t want to declare
himself a criminal. And so began years of court appearances, appeals
and challenges.

Caine said nobody should regard his story as an exercise in futility.

“These little incremental advances have really added up,” he said. “We’ve
come a long way.”

Matthew Elrod, a librarian, said he lacked the courage to get himself
charged and fight against Canadian marijuana laws in court.

So he said he took his information management expertise to the Web and
set up sites and links that allowed people to examine the issue of marijuana
criminality for themselves.

“We totally dominate the Internet,” said Elrod. “I’ve found my niche, what
I can do as a humble librarian to effect change. Behind a keyboard, I’m
a potent force.”

Monday’s gathering at the Landsdowne campus of Camosun College attracted 40
to 50 people.

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