Michael Baldasaro, marijuana activist and mayoral candidate, dies at 67

Baldasaro was a well known activist and political candidate. He even ran for the Progressive Conservative leadership once, and was arrested after holding a nude Olympics.

Baldasaro, who ran for the Tory leadership and held a nude Olympics, was 'a genuinely nice man,' mayor says

Michael Baldasaro ran for office multiple times since 1984. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Michael Baldasaro, a famed Hamilton marijuana advocate and frequent mayoral candidate, has died.

Balsadaro, 67, died Thursday after a short battle with cancer. Baldasaro was a reverend and member of the Church of the Universe, and often ran in elections for the Marijuana Party.

He was also a regular mayoral candidate, portraying himself as a man in touch with the needs of common folk.

Baldasaro's friend and fellow reverend Walter Tucker, right, died in 2012. (Michael Baldasaro/Facebook)

Mayor Fred Eisenberger issued a statement, calling Baldasaro "a true champion of Hamilton.

"His commitment to the city and his Church of the Universe community was unwavering," Eisenberger said.

But more importantly, Baldasaro was "a genuinely nice man," the mayor said. "I will miss his passion and good humour."

Baldasaro was born in Little Current on Manitoulin Island in 1949. He attended Delta Secondary School and had several jobs, including as an operating engineer and a general contractor for Baldasaro and MacGregor Ltd. He also worked at Stelco, Dofasco, Westinghouse, International Harvester, McCoy and other foundries, his bio says.

He was involved with the Church of the University since 1979, he said, and a human rights activist since 1967. And he was "an aspiring servant to my fellow human beings, all my life."

Baldasaro speaks at an all-candidates meeting in 2014. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

In Baldasaro's most recent mayoral run, his platform included cutting the mayor's salary by a third. He also proposed creating an oversight committee that would report to the people. 

In addition to federal, provincial and municipal runs, Baldasaro also tried for leadership of the Progressive Conservative party in 1998. He proposed to return all properties seized by authorities for marijuana possession to their original owners, to change all the male-centric references in O Canada, and to give mothers $10,000 when their children turn one.

By his own admission, Baldasaro was in and out of jail several times for marijuana-related offences. In 1994, he was also found guilty of trespassing in trying to regain land south of Guelph from which he and Church of the Universe founder Walter Tucker had been evicted in 1986, said the Toronto Star at the time. That attempt included holding a nude Olympics at the site.

In a mayoral candidate Q and A with CBC Hamilton, Baldasaro said he loved Piers Anthony, Johnny and June Carter Cash, Willie Nelson and "picking guitar and singing." 

He also said he'd tried alcohol and non-marijuana drugs only briefly, "many years ago."

Baldasaro speaks with voters during a Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction event in 2014. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

"I smoke marijuana, medicinally," he said. "'God's Tree of Life is for the healing of the nations.'"

Hamiltonians took to social media on Thursday to remember him.

He was "a fascinating political character and a kind, thoughtful man," tweeted Terry Cooke, former regional chair.

"Brother Michael walked the talk... with character, integrity, intelligence and gracious humour," wrote one Facebook user. "He lived his cause. He will be missed."

"RIP we will see you in the garden in the sky," wrote another. "Thank you for your voice and advocacy."