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Canada’s most flamboyant pot activist

The Story

David Malmo-Levine wants to be noticed. It's why he dyes his hair flaming red and badgers police officers. It's why he hands out joints at smoke-ins and buyers clubs. Malmo-Levine's war on the "war on drugs" has gotten him arrested six times but he's only spent a few days in jail. Now he faces 25 years for trafficking. As we see in this Big Life profile, David Malmo-Levine must decide how much he's willing to sacrifice for his cause.

Medium: Television
Program: Big Life
Broadcast Date: Dec. 2, 1998
Guests: Ezra Levant, David Malmo-Levine, Rosie Rowbotham
Host: Daniel Richler
Duration: 7:16

Did You know?

• David Malmo-Levine began his pro-pot activism with "Grassroots" rallies in Edmonton in 1993 (where he was arrested for the first time). He moved to Vancouver in 1995 to work with Hemp BC, and helped found the Harm Reduction Club buyers club in 1996. While awaiting trial, he edits Potshot magazine, works at the Pot TV Web site and is a candidate for the Marijuana Party.

• Malmo-Levine was arrested on Dec. 4, 1996 during a raid on the Harm Reduction Club, Canada's first public marijuana store. Police seized 316 grams of marijuana and Malmo-Levine was charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking. At trial he applied to call evidence in a constitutional challenge claiming that pot is harmless. That challenge progressed all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.

• Marijuana laws, like seatbelt and helmet laws, are in part based on the "harm principal" that limits individual liberty in order to protect individuals from harm. Malmo-Levine's appeal to the Supreme Court argued (among other things) that distributors like the Harm Reduction Club actually make pot safer, so the "harm principal" does not apply.

• The appeal also asks the court to consider if marijuana laws violate the equality rights of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, "as it applies to 'substance orientation' and in not applying equality to every producer and distributor of stimulants and relaxants, whether bean, grape, herb or otherwise."

• In an unusual move, in December 2002 the Supreme Court appeal was delayed after Justice Minister Maurice Cauchon announced plans to introduce legislation decriminalizing marijuana.


Pot and Politics: Canada and the Marijuana Debate more