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Larsen says he 'took one for the team'

NDP will have new candidate by end of day

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Former NDP candidate Dana Larsen says the decade-old videos of him using drugs that came to public and media attention this week was clearly “a hit job.”

Larsen makes no secret of his views on drugs and drug laws, as a founder of the B.C. Marijuana Party, founder of End Prohibition, and both founder and former manager of the Vancouver Seed Bank — a store that sells, among other things, marijuana seeds, opium poppy seeds, peyote, Peruvian coca plant, and other psychoactive plants.

But in the second week of his campaign as the NDP candidate in the West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country riding the activities of the Vancouver Seed Bank — namely selling coca plant — were brought to light, as well as old videos posted online that show Larsen smoking marijuana, taking hallucinogenic drugs and driving after consuming DMT (dimethyltryptamine) and smoking a joint. The videos were originally posted on a now-defunct site called Pot.tv, but were still available over the Internet.

As a result of the exposure, Larsen resigned as the NDP candidate on Sept. 17.

“Clearly it was a hit job, it’s not that there was anything secret about this stuff — at least to anybody who knows me,” he said Friday. “The videos were 10 years old, although I still stand by most of the stuff… but maybe I was naïve to think I could get through an election campaign without this stuff coming forward.

“I stepped aside for the good of the party and for the good of the national campaign,” he added. “I’m willing to defend what was in the video or my past and to explain my reasons, but in the end I didn’t want (NDP leader) Jack Layton to have to answer questions about what one of his candidates did 10 years ago. I didn’t want to divert focus from the national platform, so I took one for the team in that sense.”

Larsen has been the NDP candidate for the riding since April of 2007. He has been honest since the beginning about his own drug use, and his goal to legalize or decriminalize drug use and treat addicts as health care cases rather than criminals.

He says most Canadians, including MPs from all parties, have probably experimented with drugs at one point in their lives, or have friends or family who have used drugs. Given the statistics, he finds it interesting — and hypocritical — that politicians are held to a higher standard.

“While I’m always ready to talk about these issues, and my reasons for supporting alternative drug policies, the middle of a campaign is not the time you want to be clarifying things or getting into the subtleties.”

The riding association responded quickly, holding a new nomination meeting on the afternoon of Sept. 19. Larsen maintains his membership in the NDP, and says he will work for whichever candidate is selected.

Larsen did make some appearances on television and spoke to reporters about his decision to resign, but he says he has since turned down several requests for interviews to make the story “go away.”

“I want Jack Layton to be Prime Minister, and I don’t want to screw this up for him or for any of the other candidates. It’s an important election, there are some real issues, and this is a distraction,” he said.

Larsen ran three times to be selected as the NDP candidate, and hasn’t ruled out running again.

“Maybe in another four years, when those videos are 14 years old, and hopefully nobody will care anymore,” he said. “It was a happy 11 days, and maybe next time I’ll get all the way through. This time it’s best to step back. Regretfully.”

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