From 2006 to 2008, Neil Magnuson in-line skated some 5,000 kilometres across Canada to raise awareness about what he sees as an attack on Canadians’ freedom — laws prohibiting the possession and/or use of drugs, especially marijuana.
This year the Vancouver man is taking a similar message on the road —†only this time he’s eschewing the considerable logistical and physical stress of doing it under his own steam for something most would find a bit more realistic for his 55-year-old body.
He’s doing it in a van.
In what he and his supporters call the Freedom Tour, Magnuson professes great respect for the sacrifices brave Canadians have made to win our freedoms. That’s why he plans to arrive in Ottawa on Remembrance Day to deliver his message to the powers that be — that those hard-won freedoms should include the freedom for adults to partake in recreational drugs if they so choose.
The literature he hands out to those he meets includes the passage, “Freedom is the right to do or not do whatever you want do or don’t want do to without any interference, coercion or prohibition unless you unreasonably interfere with someone else.”
Magnuson insists that the billions spent on policing, the justice system, prisons and what not is part of a “corporate agenda” is unnecessarily restricting Canadians’ freedoms. Instead, he would like to see the drugs legalized and regulated.
He insists he’s not advocating for the increased use of injected drugs, crystal meth and/or other drugs that can be harmful or fatal if abused. He is in favour of legalizing drugs and treating them as a health matter, not a legal one.
“I’m certainly not pro-drug abuse. I’m pro-freedom to choose,” he said.
He also says marijuana, hemp, cannabis or whatever one calls it has been proven beneficial to many Canadians and that growing the plant and using for its myriad purposes — including the making of clothing and rope or the possession and use of small amounts — should be completely legal. Doing so would eliminate the “black market” in the substance, he said.
Increasingly, people in positions of influence seem to agree. Among the recent signatories to a letter addressed to Premier Christy Clark calling for “a regulated, public health approach to adult marijuana use” in B.C. were Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, Burnaby Mayor Derrick Corrigan and North Vancouver City Mayor Darrell Mussatto.
Magnuson, who ran under the Marijuana Party banner for the legislature in the B.C. riding of Surrey-Whalley in 2005, said that in the first few weeks of the 2012 tour he’s found quite a receptive audience.
“In B.C. it’s been like preaching to the choir,” he said.
But not everyone is sold. One person on Vancouver Island called his version of the Canadian flag — with a marijuana leaf in the place of the maple leaf — disrespectful.
“That’s because we’re talking about laws that are disrespectful” toward Canadians’ freedoms, Magnuson responded.