Millionaire lottery winner Bob Erb is backing a campaign to legalize marijuana with hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own money.
He spent more than $56,000 two weekends ago hosting a pot legalization conference at the Skeena Landing complex and is now focusing efforts on a national public relations campaign.
As well, Erb is backing a move by provincial pot activist Dana Larsen to have enough people sign a petition to then hold a referendum.
If passed, the referendum would have the provincial government of the day amend the provincial Police Act to stop the police from taking any action, including searches, seizures, citations or arrests, in cases of simple cannabis possession by adults.
Erb brought in nearly 20 pot advocates from across the country who were joined by a similar number of local people. He paid for airfare, accommodations, and refreshments for the weekend.
“What I told them [Feb. 3] is that I’ve done the easiest part, writing out cheques for $300,000. Now you have the hard part of doing the work,” said Erb.
“What I said was that I was the lucky SOB that won the $25 million. And I know that any of you, if you had won, would be doing the same as me right now.”
“What we will have now is a unified voice and standard right across the country.”
Every group represented received $10,000 for publicity, which includes updating their websites, said Erb.
Four of the groups – NORML Women’s Alliance of Canada, Calm Compassion Club of Toronto, the Herb Museum of Vancouver and Calgary 420 – formed a national organization named 420 and received $100,000 to organize events.
Four-twenty is an expression people have been using since the ‘70s and ‘80s to refer to going out to smoke a joint, said Erb.
It’s spawned large public smoke-ins on April 20 of each year.
T-shirts, literature, refreshments and tents will be provided at each event.
And any marketing and items for sale will have the name “Erb for Herb,” said Erb.
“Any money from Erb for Herb branding, any net income will 100 per cent go back into the legalization movement,” he said.
Erb is planning another conference here later this year, which will likely coincide with the launch of Larsen’s petition under the name of his Sensible BC organization.
“When I was smoking with Dana, I said ‘before Bob Erb won $25 million, what was your dream number you figured you needed monetary-wise to run an effective campaign?’” said Erb.
“He said ‘my dream number is $400,000 to $500,000.’ I said ‘let’s use $500,000 as your ideal to make it run successfully, to cover all the bases.’
“My next question was ‘how much did you think realistically you could’ve raised for this campaign?’”
The amount Larsen came up with was about $150,000, said Erb, adding he had earlier guaranteed Larsen at least $100,000 minimum from him, then upped the minimum he’d give to $250,000 for the campaign.