LEGALIZING POT WILL BRING ECONOMIC GAINS, SAYS MARIJUANA PARTY CANDIDATE Dustin Sobie may only be 18 years old and have a shoestring campaign budget, but he's eager to try his hand at politics. From the time he was an exchange student in Germany and the war in Iraq started, Sobie has been a keen follower of the news, especially politics. The Grade 12 student at Lethbridge Collegiate Institute wanted to see what the electoral process was like so he decided to run as a candidate for the Marijuana Party of Canada. It's the first time the party has had a candidate in Lethbridge. "I support the legalization of marijuana and the platform of the Marijuana Party," Sobie said. His parents have mixed feelings about his decision, but they're glad he's getting involved in the political process when so many youth are apathetic. "They probably wish I was running for a different party," Sobie admits, adding his mom is particularly concerned, yet supportive. "My dad supports me all the way." The party's platform centres around legalizing marijuana and amending the Canada Elections Act. The party wants to see the first-past-the-post method scrapped in favour of proportional representation. "A lot of Canada is underrepresented in the House of Commons. A lot of people get elected and they're not what everybody wants," Sobie said. Legalizing marijuana would bring social and economic advantages and send a strong message to the United States. "I think Canada has to stand up to the United States and say we're going to control our domestic policy," he said. If Canada became a leader in legalizing marijuana, other countries would follow suit, eventually putting a dent in U.S. domination and its tendency to dictate drug policy. RCMP statistics from 1996 estimate five million Canadians use marijuana recreationally. "That makes them criminals. According to the law, all of them should be jailed right now and fined. I think that's wrong." Canada's laws affect young adults most seriously by denying them career and travel opportunities if they are convicted of possession. With 75 per cent of all drug cases in Canada involving marijuana, often simple possession, taxpayers pay more than $100 million every year for jailing marijuana users. "It puts a huge strain on the legal system. I believe this is a huge waste of Canadian taxpayers' money because these people did nothing wrong," Sobie said. Economically, marijuana represents an untapped resource worth about $7 billion a year, which is more than the wheat, beef or timber economies. Legalizing marijuana would save money spent to enforce drug laws and would generate money as a taxable commodity. Even though his party doesn't have official positions on other issues, Sobie has his own opinions on voter concerns like health, education, government accountability and taxes. "I think we have to put more money into education," he said, adding the money should be spent on hiring more teachers, creating smaller classes and buying more computers and newer textbooks. He points a finger at Premier Ralph Klein for the state of education in Alberta. While students do well on provincial achievement tests, Alberta students are at a disadvantage when compared to students in neighbouring provinces. He'd like to see the federal government exercise some influence on how provinces spend education dollars. "Education should be equal across the country, there shouldn't be differences." The country's health-care system is one of the jewels in the crown of Canada and "we should maintain the Canada Health Act and put more money into health care," he said. Sobie favours a progressive tax system based on ability to pay and for Canadian citizens to have access to any and all government information that isn't a matter of national security. He said the House of Commons is marked by too much aggression and the parties should work together, as occurs in Sweden.