Spoken word poet John Akpata with local millionaire pot activist Bob Erb.

Spoken word poet John Akpata with local millionaire pot activist Bob Erb.

Pot smoke-in planned for Terrace

The April 20 event is being financed by millionaire pot activist Bob Erb

CANNABIS ADVOCATES are gathering at the courthouse Saturday afternoon to smoke a little (or maybe a lot of) pot and take in events financed by local lottery millionaire and weed legalization activist Bob Erb.

The origin of the name 4/20 varies depending on who you talk to, but the date of April 20 has taken hold around the world in recent years as the day for marijuana legalization rallies.

Usually held in larger urban centres, this is the first time a 4/20 rally has been held in Terrace and it is one of many across the country being financially supported by Erb.

“This wouldn’t happen if there wasn’t somebody who won a great deal of money and is being able to afford to bring people into town to speak,” said Skeena MLA Robin Austin.

Erb donated more than $100,000 dollars to 4/20 events around Canada this year, drawn from his $25 million Lotto Max  winnings from last November.

As per the 4/20 tradition, there will be many joints passed around at the courthouse, Erb said.

The local RCMP will be notified in advance about the over-18 event and Erb does not foresee arrests being a problem, partly because the British Columbia Union of Municipalities voted last September to support decriminalization.

Erb’s legalization push, including efforts to have marijuana pulled from Canada’s Controlled Drug and Substances Act are carried out under the advocacy group name Erb4Herb. Erb4Herb merchandise will be on display Saturday – which will include mugs, t-shirts, signs and other accessories.

The group posted an invite online last week calling Terrace residents to meet at the hill outside the Terrace Sportsplex shortly before 4 p.m. and to join a march to the courthouse.

“This doesn’t have to be a street-stopping event the first time,” Erb said, stressing that he also wants the rally to be alcohol-free.

Erb said that though legislative change has to come from the federal government, his 4/20 Terrace event aims to recruit supporters for a project initiated by Sensible BC, an organization that wants to hold a province-wide referendum on marijuana decriminalization next year.

He says that he’s seen pot smoking become more accepted in Terrace since he moved here over four decades ago. “It’s come out of the back alleys. Manual labourers, doctors, lawyers, it has no social, economic, political boundaries.”

The owners of local business Deviant Fibres, a hemp shop located in the Lazelle Mini-mall, are playing a lead role in the 4/20 event.

Robin Austin, running for re-election in the Skeena riding for the NDP in the May 14 provincial election, was invited to the event by Sensible B.C. organizer Dana Larsen.

“I’m hoping that Sensible BC will be able to achieve their goal just as those who opposed the HST were,” Austin said, stressing that a referendum on legalization has never been discussed in the NDP caucus, and that he was not speaking for the party.

“I think the people are ahead in the game and understand much better this issue than the politicians,” Austin said. “During election it’s a great time to engage people because it’s the one time people stop to think about political or public policy issues.”

Several groups, including NORML Women’s Alliance of Canada, 420 Toronto, the Herb Museum of Vancouver and Calgary 420 formed a national organization named 420 and received money from Erb to organize events in Canada.

The money is being used to create a standardized set-up at events across the country, Erb said. Publicity includes radio commercials.

Erb wants to match donations for a total of $500,000  toward a referendum campaign. Sensible BC needs to get a petition signed by a minimum of 10 per cent of the voters in all 85 B.C. provincial ridings to acquire the right to hold a referendum. Erb’s 4/20 event is held in part to forge an initial list of supporters.

Erb’s cannabis plans for marijuana in the Terrace area are big. Forestry companies will grow hemp in clear-cuts and use fibre for pressboard like OSB, he said. Hemp grows much faster than wood, Erb argued, so it could be harvested with a quicker turnaround. “We need another industry in the northwest,” Erb said.

While Austin will be in attendance, Terrace mayor Dave Pernarowski won’t be there, saying he has other commitments. An email sent to Skeena – Bulkley Valley NDP MP Nathan Cullen’s office was not answered.

Featured at the rally will be spoken word poet John Akpata. Akpata is an Ottawa-based performance poet who has run in  federal elections for the Marijuana Party several times, participated in all-candidates events in Ottawa and gained notoriety for his raw political speeches that incorporate poetry. Documentary filmmaker Kalmplex is also in town to film the poets’ visit, including stops at local high schools, said Erb.

(A response from Skeena – Bulkley Valley NDP MP Nathan Cullen arrived past the deadline for the print version of the above story which appears in the April 17, 2013 edition of The Terrace Standard. Mr. Cullen will not be at the event this Saturday in Terrace but will be in town the weekend after.

As to the question of legalization of marijuana, here is his position as forwarded from his office:  Nathan supports decriminalizing marijuana with the goal of removing production and distribution from the control of organized crime. He also supports a harm reduction approach to substance abuse and supports permitting use for medicinal purposes.)