A marijuana dispensary in Vancouver is doing its civic duty to get people engaged in the upcoming federal election by offering voters free weed and a chance to see Snoop Dogg in concert.
Eden Medicinal Society — a dispensary with five locations in Vancouver — has launched a get-out-the-vote campaign geared toward those passionate about marijuana policy.
"There's a lot of big choices on the table this time around," Danny Kresnyak, an Eden Medicinal Society spokesperson, told VICE News. "We believe that our voices have been left out and it's time that we're heard."
Any of Eden's 15,000 members who prove they voted can win the chance to judge 40 samples of cannabis for a competition — the Harvest Moon Cup. Non-members who voted in the election can win a ticket to a Snoop Doog concert in Vancouver.
Sensible BC, another marijuana advocacy group in Vancouver, is also trying to "grow the vote" through its phone and email campaign urging people to cast their ballots for any party except Conservative, which opposes legalizing marijuana.
"The main thing for us is to reach out to our base — to those people that consider cannabis reform to be a very high priority for them, and to encourage them, to give them some guidance as to who to vote for," Dana Larsen, a Sensible BC spokesperson told the CBC.
Marijuana policy has lit up the election campaign at times, with opposition parties criticizing Prime Minister Stephen Harper for his staunch opposition to marijuana legalization, and desire to keep the laws as they are.
"When you go down that route, marijuana becomes more readily available to children, more people become addicted to it, and the health outcomes become worse...I think it's actually a tragedy," Harper warned at a campaign stop last month.
Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau has long vowed to legalize and regulate marijuana if he replaces Harper. And NDP leader Thomas Mulcair says he will decriminalize it immediately if elected. The Green Party says it would legalize and tax weed.
In June, Vancouver became the first city in Canada to regulate and license the estimated 100 dispensaries the government says are illegal, a move that made the country's health minister, Rona Ambrose, "deeply disappointed." Ambrose has been a strong opponent of marijuana use, for any reason. Marijuana use for certain medical purposes has been legal in Canada since 2001.
Things have been tense between the federal government and medical marijuana dispensaries in BC since then, especially as municipal police forces have been loathe to shut down the ones operating illegally. Earlier this month, Health Canada issued a cease-and-desist letter to 13 compassion clubs and dispensaries, threatening to send in the RCMP if they don't stop selling cannabis.
This week, addiction doctors wrote a piece in the Canadian Medical Association Journal describing the harms of prohibiting marijuana use. The doctors also urge any government that does legalize marijuana beyond medical use to closely monitor its supply in order to prevent "Big Cannabis" corporations from getting too powerful like "Big Tobacco" and "Big Alcohol."
"These powerful multinational corporations have revenues and market expansion as their primary goals, with little consideration of the impact on public health," the doctors wrote. "It is important that the regulations actively work against the establishment of Big Cannabis."
An Ipsos poll conducted in August found that the majority of Canadians support decriminalizing marijuana — with the highest support coming from British Columbians.
Follow Rachel Browne on Twitter: @rp_browne
Photo via Flickr user Nina B.
Watch the VICE News documentary The Grass Is Greener here: