BCCCS Speech To 420 Rally

Jeet-Kei Leung

Last Wednesday, the BCCCS addressed the 420 rally in Vancouver, speaking to over 10,000 people, primarily in the 18-24 age group of who only 1 in 3 voted in the last election. As events would have it, it was 4:10pm by the time I got on, there was a thick sea of people and the energy was absolutely primed!!!!

The text of my speech is below with some additional info edited back in. Many thanks to Beyond Prohibition for giving us a chance to speak to this important demographic!

Libby Davies, our incumbent MP for Vancouver-East, also spoke at the rally, giving us & other Compassion Clubs major props.


Vancouver, April 20 2011
I'm here on behalf of the BC Compassion Club. We are the original and still largest medical cannabis dispensary in Canada, operating as a non-profit organization for the past 14 years. We serve over 6,500 members with serious illnesses or conditions, that include Cancer, HIV/AIDS, Hep C, Arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis, and many others. In addition, for the past 12 years, we've been operating an adjoining wellness centre, where we offer 10 types of natural therapy to our members on a sliding scale to our members, from $5-30 for a treatment. Last year, we subsidized almost 90% of the actual costs of providing over 3,400 treatments in our wellness centre through the sale of medical cannabis.
Generally speaking, we keep pretty busy doing our work, but we felt compelled to come out here today to add our voices to the chorus in urging you all to, please get out and vote on May 2nd! And vote to defeat the Harper government!
Why is this situation so urgent? Because this guy, this dude, who has been running the government of Canada for the past 5 years with the support of less than 25% of eligible voters, if he succeeds in getting a majority government--a majority government that can pass any legislation it wants--he is going to ruin a lot of the things that are what make Canada a good and decent place to live. He's already done a huge amount of damage with his minority government these past 5 years.
As a minority government, they tried 3 times to push through a bill that would make law mandatory prison sentences for those found guilty of growing cannabis. What mandatory means is just that--it takes away the discretion from the judge to look at the situation in determining an appropriate sentence. So that’s a mandatory prison sentence for the Compassion Club cultivator who provides medicine to patients with serious illnesses. That’s mandatory prison for medical cannabis patients growing for themselves who don't have a Health Canada license, which is the vast majority. That’s mandatory prison sentences at the cost of $100,000 a year per person to keep someone in prison, not to mention all the lives that would be ruined and traumatized.
This proposed legislation was so outrageous that in December 2009, we went to Ottawa to add our testimony to the voices of all the experts, the judges, criminal lawyers, defence lawyers and many others who talked overwhelmingly about all the ways this Bill would have negative consequences on Canadian society. But the Conservatives didn't care about hearing reason. 3 times they tried, 3 times they failed. 
If Harper had had a majority government, this would already be law right now. And if Harper gets a majority government on May 2nd, the Conservatives have promised to bring this bill back and to make it law.
Harper and his born-again Conservatives refuse to look at or consider evidence in developing sensible, effective policies around drugs. They don't have a clue. They don't understand what Harm Reduction means. They want to shut down Insite, the safe injection site, which has reduced overdose deaths by 35%. They don`t understand that when you talk about addiction, there is a usually a huge link with previous trauma, and if you don`t deal with the trauma at the root of the addiction, you`re not going to solve it by demonizing the drug or by criminalizing the user.
Instead, they want to expand the War on Drugs. They`re ready to put another $500 million--and what would likely eventually amount to $9 billion--to build more prisons, so they have the capacity for all the extra people they plan to put in there, people like medical cannabis growers and patients. 
But, I'm sad to say you may not be shocked at all to learn that the Conservative agenda goes well beyond this.
The Conservatives have cut funding for the environment, including protection for wildlife; made massive reductions in climate change and clean air initiatives; made massive cuts in EI payments, in skills and literacy programs, first nations programs, women's programs, and childcare funding. They already took a huge chunk from arts & culture 2 years ago. They made big cuts to Science & Health research. They cut the Medical Marijuana Research Program, the Canadian Volunteerism Initiative, Health Canada's Policy Research Program. The list of organizations that had their funding cut number over 70, including many that provide services to the most vulnerable parts of our population, as well as organizations or positions that provide oversight to guarantee civil rights in our society.
BUT Harper DOES HAVE $18 Billion ready to spend for more Fighter Jets. He`s got hundred of millions ready to spend on more prisons and more border controls. He wants to take the money that provided all those necessary services and turn it into a $6B tax cut for corporations. Let`s not forget that this is the guy, who sells himself on being good for the economy, who turned a $13B surplus that he inherited from the previous government into a $54B record deficit.
So there's a stark choice in the type of country, the type of society, we want to live in. That choice point is before us right now--it`s coming up in just 12 days.
In the last election, just 37% of 18-to-34 year olds cast their votes. 2 out of 3 in this critical age category stayed home. Don`t be one of the ones staying home on May 2nd. Plan to get out and vote.
For the love of all that makes Canada a good place to live and on behalf of Canada's oldest Compassion Club and all our members, we urge you to get out to your poll and vote on May 2nd. Take a moment, educate yourself on the candidates in your riding and make sure to vote to beat the Conservatives!!!!
And we need to make sure all our friends, all our social networks, do the same. It's the least we can do for our society, for our communities and for ourselves. Thank you.