If marijuana activist Dana Larsen was looking for some momentum to kick off a cross country tour to promote the legalization of marijuana, he found it in a packed hotel meeting room in downtown Kelowna on Tuesday night.
But by Wednesday night in Calgary Larsen had been arrested and charged as his OverGrow Canada tour made its second of 14 scheduled stops.
Larsen, 44, of Vancouver, was charged with one count of trafficking marijuana and one count of possession for the purpose of trafficking. He was released from custody and is expected to appear in court on May 18.
Earlier this week in Kelowna, more than 120 people crammed into a hotel room to listen to Larsen and to receive the free cannabis seeds he had promised to give away, asking people to plant them in a public place as an act of civil disobedience and a way to urge the federal Liberals to follow through on their promise to legalize marijuana.
Following the meeting, as volunteers from his group handed out the seeds, Larsen said he would be surprised if police arrested him, even though it was technically illegal what he was doing.
“It’s true I’m breaking the law but it’s like people jay-walking to get here, it’s that level of breaking the law,” he said. “Police are not going to come and drag me away for giving away some seeds to people. It would just be ridiculous so that’s not going to happen.”
And in Kelowna, RCMP did not attend the rally and Larsen’s tour called OverGrow Canada moved on to its second stop in Calgary on Wednesday night. According to media reports in Calgary, first a volunteer was arrested and later Larsen was arrested as he handed out cannabis seeds in much the same manner.
When questioned by the Capital News about why RCMP did not arrest Larsen in Kelowna, RCMP media relations officer Annie Delisle released the following statement.
“According to the Controlled Drug and Substance Act (CDSA)…Non-viable Cannabis seed, with the exception of its derivatives; are not controlled under the CDSA,” read the statement. “RCMP detachments set enforcement priorities in consultation with local government, partners and citizens of the community. Individuals found to be in contravention of the CDSA may be subject to investigation and criminal charges in accordance with Canadian Laws.”
In Kelowna Larsen said the viability of the cannabis seeds was one reason an arrest likely wouldn’t be made.
“It’s trafficking in marijuana under the law but they have to be viable seeds and even though I’m telling you they will grow, they will need to grow them and sprout them and then say ‘oh look they are viable’ so it’s a lot of effort for them to prove I am giving away viable seeds. It’s just not worth the effort. Even if they convicted me I would get a 100 dollar fine or something so the amount of effort for the amount of result is not worth anybody’s time.”
Larsen said the turnout in Kelowna was heart-warming and showed there is a lot of interest in legalizing marijuana.
“This was behind my wildest expectations in terms of the turnout,” said Larsen after the 90 minute meeting. “I know there is enthusiasm about cannabis but having this room packed and people standing in the hallway, that to me is very heart-warming to see that level of support and interest. I think it just shows how hungry Canadians, and people in Kelowna, are for legalization.”
Larsen is a well-known Vancouver-based cannabis activist and founder of the Vancouver Dispensary Society, the B.C. and Canadian Marijuana political parties as well as Sensible B.C.
Following his arrest in Calgary he told the media that he would continue his tour but would no longer be handing out free seeds as that would land him back in jail.