PRINCE OF POT'S LATEST PROJECT -- DRUG-WAR TOURS AND 'HERB SCHOOL'
Activist Aims To Teach People To Use Marijuana Properly
Canada's most-flamboyant marijuana activist is at it again, offering a 90-minute walkabout drug war tour and a herb school for marijuana aficionados.
From a store-front base next to the city's safe-injection site in the Downtown Eastside, David Malmo-Levine is proselytizing like a dozen other tenderloin evangelists.
He just isn't pushing Jesus; he is pushing herb.
"My main argument is you can teach people to properly use marijuana," he said, "so they don't hurt themselves."
Ergo, he founded the "herb school," just west of Hastings and Main, with a mini-museum, photo display and archive.
He offers drug-war tours on Tuesdays and Sundays at 3 p.m., organic grow workshops and colloquia on such issues as the dangers of radioactive chemical fertilizers.
He charges between $3 and $30 for his tour through the city's underbelly, a kind of Calvary of the drug war -- here's the old opium factory, here's the site of the Gastown Riot, here's where Prime Minister Mackenzie King made an undercover drug buy... .
Organic nutrients are also available at the school, although Malmo-Levine says no herb is sold on site.
"It's all about the harm principle," he said. "The criminal law should be used only when there is real harm that can measured."
The B.C. Court of Appeal liked that concept when his appeal of a marijuana charge landed there a few years ago.
It was an idea first enunciated by the 19th century English philosopher John Stuart Mill: "The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant ... over himself, over his mind and body, the individual is sovereign."
Of course, when it heard Malmo-Levine's case, the Supreme Court of Canada scoffed.
"They just said they didn't think there was any such thing as a harm principle," Malmo-Levine shrugged. "We're in the debatable category: the people who commit incest, pimps, people who abuse animals and cannibals, not quite harmful, not quite harmless. I think they are wrong."
Ah, well, there's the rub. It was their game.
At 33, Malmo-Levine is the Peter Pan of the pot world. The activist who doesn't grow up, he grow-ops.
Malmo-Levine is an Edmonton kid who turned marijuana activist in 1995. He spent all his time at the University of Alberta campus newspaper, the radio station or in the library promoting dope. The cash to fund his first big rally, he says, came from The Edmonton Journal, which paid him $100 for a letter to the editor extolling the virtues of grass-roots (nudge-nudge,
Forget the adolescent puns, though. His pizzazz -- day-glow hair colours, naked chicks, three-foot joints -- caught the attention of Vancouver's Marc Emery, the country's largest marijuana seed seller and a strident pot legalization campaigner.
Within months, Malmo-Levine was ensconced in Vancouver working as a professional pot activist on Emery's nickel.
"It was like, 'Wow!'," he remembered. "Here's a bunch of hippies working with a bunch of capitalists and a bunch of, you know, dreamers, thespians
-- all the youth cultures -- one of everybody here, you know, and we're all working together. It was like, 'Wow! I want to join this team.' It's like the superheroes team, a superhero pot activist team. It was a dream come true.
"Before, in Edmonton, I was spending the money from my minimum-wage job that wasn't spent on rent or food. I was spending that on my pot activism.
It was maybe $25 or $100 every two or three months. Here, I got paid to do what I was doing in my spare time with my own money. I got paid to do it with a huge budget. Marijuana flowed like hot and cold running water."
In Edmonton, his biggest budget for a rally was probably $300 for photocopying, brushes, buckets and glue. Now that was lunch.
Over the years, Malmo-Levine has been featured in almost every major newspaper and media outlet in the country.
He's got his name on the Supreme Court of Canada ruling on marijuana.
Call it branding.
It's only natural for him to open a school, he said:
"I want to see drug peace. I want to see the drug war as history. I've failed so far to change the law through the courts.
"Maybe education will work."