After rumours swirled around Facebook and Twitter all day yesterday, it now appears clear that the NDP has banned Dana Larsen, a party member, activist and its one-time candidate for West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country, from attending its convention this week in Halifax.
Larsen sent the following tweet around 10am EST this morning:
I just had my observer pass taken away and was escorted out of the Convention Centre. I am banned from the convention and building! #hfx09You may recall Larsen as the first of three NDP candidates in the last federal election from BC that were forced to resign in short succession (Kirk Tousaw in Vancouver-Quadra and Jullian West in Sannich-Gulf Islands were the others). Larsen, a long-time marijuana activist and former Marijuana Party organizer, became contreversial when news of that activism history hit the mainstream, including his authorship of the Hairy Pothead and the Marijuana Stone book and his videos for Pot-TV on YouTube.
While the party seemed bizarely taken by surprise by this history (which he never hid), it was likely survivable but what appeared to be a bridge too far was the videos Larsen produced that showed him driving under the influence of marijuana and acid. Larsen resigned his candidacy and was replaced by Bill Frost, who finished third behind Conservative John Weston.
Despite losing his nomination, Larsen has remained an active New Democrat as well as an advocate for marijuana legalization, and in the lead-up to the Halifax convention has been organizing behind a related "end prohibition" resolution to be debated at the convention.
As I wrote in February, his organization included offering assistance with transporting and lodging to delegates who were willing to support his anti-prohibition resolution:
He made the offer again in June:
It appears to be this activity that has gotten Larsen into trouble with the party brass. According to the messages posted in Facebook and Twitter by NDP activisits, NDP national director Brad Lavigne intervened to bar Larsen from the convention over allegations of vote-buying.
The decision has sparked a Facebook campaign to have Lavigne overturn the decision. Yesterday the wall of the NDP convention Facebook event page was filled with posts condemning the party's decision. Today, the wall has been disabled and is no longer viewable. However, I managed to grab some screenshots yesterday. Here's a taste:
Instead, the discussion has now moved over to the "Call Brad Lavigne to support Dana Larsen, Marijuana Legalization" event page on Facebook, as well as a lengthly Rabble thread.
Before the banning, Larsen was already complaining about moves to limit policy debate at the convention, and in July complained his attempt to purchase an ad for his "End Prohibition" group in the convention program was denied.
If Larsen did cross the "vote-buying" line then that may be legitimate grounds for his expulsion, but as many have noted in the Rabble discussion threads its a fine line that would seem to be crossed with regularity.
Even so, stepping from revoking delegate status to banning someone from the convention centre is quite a step for the potentially soon to be Democratic Party. And it seems Larsen does have a sizeable constituency within the party, given the backlash this decision has sparked.
And, to put this in the bigger-picture context, it reminds me of this story from the last election:
The NDP is denying they made an informal deal with marijuana activist Marc Emery.Layton denied any sort of arrangement with Emery; the Larsen affair would seem to underline that, even if there was such an agreement, its long dead. Which makes one wonder just how much organizational heft did Emery and his followers, such as Larsen, bring to the NDP? And how much will they miss it if they leave?
Emery alleges he and NDP Leader Jack Layton had an agreement to bring Marijuana Party members to the New Democrats. In exchange, Emery claims the NDP said they would continue efforts to decriminalize pot.
Emery told CTV.ca in a phone interview from Vancouver he told Layton in 2003 that he and his supporters would bring thousands of new people to the NDP, offer up qualified candidates, and get voters excited about the party.
"We did all that. We fulfilled every obligation we had," he said Saturday.
UPDATE: Here's the letter from Lavigne to Larsen explaining the party's decision, and Larsen's reply.
FURTHER UPDATE: Here's Marc Emery commenting on the Larsen affair (emphasis mine):
Larsen has been active in 12 previous NDP provincial and national conventions. He considers himself to have allies in NDP MP’s Bill Siksay and Libby Davies. Davies was to introduce Larsen’s resolution that calls for the NDP to adopt a clear, detailed policy calling for non-punitive regulation of the cannabis industry and the distribution of cannabis.UPDATE: Kirk Tousaw (former NDP candidate for Vancouver-Quadra forced to resign over marijuana issues) weighs-in as well:
Suddenly, earlier this week, the NDP party brass dispatched Davies to the Middle East as part of a parliamentary fact-finding mission, even though she was scheduled to speak at the convention this weekend.
Bill Siksay was to replace Davies in speaking to the motion at the NDP resolution prioritization meeting, which is being held on Friday morning outside the convention, as the call to order does not come into effect until Saturday morning. This decision to hold the prioritization of resolutions meeting on Friday, before the NDP delegates have arrived and been called to order is illegal. Many delegates won’t have arrived by Friday morning, and since it is not on the convention agenda, many wouldn’t even be aware of it.
The reason for this is that Dana Larsen expects over 150 delegates who are his allies to be at the convention on Saturday, and the NDP is trying desperately to sideline Larsen’s increasing clout and presence in the NDP.
What on earth is the NDP doing? Banning people from "democratic" gatherings, censoring, fighting against progressive policies?
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