I adore the Overgrow Canada movement. The message is powerful and peaceful: overgrow Canada with cannabis. If people have the courage to grow cannabis plants in their front yards, window sills, and parkways, we show our leaders that we are no longer waiting while people’s lives are destroyed by pointless criminal records but black market activities and shady grow operations continue. Overgrow Canada is a revolution I can get behind. It feels like an art project: how beautiful seeing all those plants growing in the wild could be.
Overgrow Canada aims to have marijuana growing openly and freely all over Canada. “Cannabis liberation,” their website states, “is about peaceful defiance, and standing up against unjust laws, not only with words, but with concrete action.”
Putting his money where his mouth is, organizer Dana Larsen has pulled together a legion of volunteers to package and sort the donations of thousands upon thousands of seeds. They will send you high CBD seeds (THC seeds are gone) for the suggested donation of $5, which covers mailing costs for you and one other person who does not have the means to donate. All proceeds go to shipping costs; whatever remains, if anything, will benefit Sensible BC. The seeds are mailed directly to you.
Depending on whether you plan on guerrilla planting to increase plant visibility or will grow your own stash on your balcony, there is an option to help you become a part of the movement. When I asked Dana Larsen over Facebook why now, when we are so close to legalization, he told me, “Canada isn’t on the verge of legalization because of politicians, it is because of the massive civil disobedience campaign that we have waged for the past two decades or more. Now is not the time to wait for politicians, now is the time to claim our freedom.” Hard logic to argue, and we know he means it: Dana was arrested during the Overgrow Tour in Calgary, Alberta.
It seems most Canadians should be, at the very least, not offended by Overgrow Canada. According to CBC’s Vote Compass, during the 2015 federal election “Overall, 56 per cent of respondents said pot should be legalized, 30 per cent said it should be decriminalized and only 14 per cent said it should it remain a criminal offence.” Of course, it assumes that everyone knows the difference between legalizing and decriminalizing. Spoiler alert: they mostly don’t.
The good news is that we are currently letting the world know we are over the so-called “war on drugs.” At the UN Narcotics conference recently, our representative, Hilary Gellar, made a speech stating that Canada will be using evidence-based science in its drug policy, moving towards harm reduction programs and education vs. arrests. In regards to marijuana, she stated that
… members of the Commission will likely be aware that Canada has committed to legalize, strictly regulate and restrict access to marijuana. The Government of Canada in its electoral platform stated that that the current national approach is not working. Canadian youth use marijuana at rates among the highest in the world. Thousands of Canadians are dealing with the consequences of having criminal records for non-violent drug offences every year while organized crime is reaping the benefits of billions of dollars in profits from the illegal marijuana trade. And, finally, most Canadians no longer believe that marijuana should be subject to harsh criminal sanctions, and support the Government’s commitment to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana.
While it might not be at a speed to our liking, legalization is en route. And it would seem a lot of countries are on the same page as Canada, made clear by the standing ovation Gellar’s speech received. This is actually really amazing, guys. Try to see the big picture of stopping the war on drugs on an international level — kind of a big deal.
Not everyone in the marijuana community is a fan of the Liberals, though. With 22,000-and-counting marijuana-related charges laid since the party was elected in with a majority, people are wondering why exactly Justin Trudeau is not stopping the arrests. First, there is a lot more international red tape surrounding legalization than expected: we’ve signed three global treaties that state that marijuana will remain against the law. However, at the UN special session, Health Minister Jane Philpott announced an expected date of 2017 for legislation, focusing on the necessary reasons for working around the treaties in regards to cannabis.
While I applaud the liberal government’s concern with our appearances on the world stage, it’d sure be nice to have those arrests slow down. But the liberal government chooses not to decriminalize before then because, they claim, they don’t want to feed organized crime in the meantime.
But I’m getting off track.
So, what’s the point of Overgrow Canada if legalization is on its way? Well, as the website states, “It could be years before the Liberals come up with all their new rules and regulations, permits and punishments for legal cannabis. Our movement has never been based on patiently waiting for politicians to grant us freedom.”
Like most revolutions, there are inherent risks. Not all municipalities are willing to turn a blind eye to growing and toking. Anything more than five plants, with intent to share or sell, could get you a mandatory minimum sentence. There are no guarantees that you will walk away unscathed if you are caught, as Dana Larsen knows only too well. But he has stated that people can contact him for help with legal troubles as a direct result of the movement. With all the interest in Overgrow, you are definitely not going to be alone.
With the amount of press Dana Larsen received after his arrest over seeds, and the lack of arrests afterwards at other stops along the tour, one would hope that the authorities can see that they are only fueling the fire.
This is an opportunity to participate in a part of history. I personally think that guerilla planting, more than anything, will tell local municipalities that marijuana is here to stay, that people are harmlessly using and growing marijuana, and that we will no longer hide in basements and dark corners. Next year or the year following is too long of a wait, while people are being prosecuted for non-violent crimes related to cannabis.
There are other options to participate in the process of legalization. These government sponsored petitions, e-115, e-190, and e-18 in particular, need more signatures. I asked Dana what makes these different than other online petitions that have no clout:
The online petition I am promoting [e-18] is a bit different. It’s an official Parliament petition sponsored by MP Elizabeth May. The Liberal government must formally respond to our petition in the House of Commons. Their response will be short and dismissive I am sure. But this petition is useful because it is a clear statement of what the cannabis movement wants to see out of legalization, it gives us a means to generate media attention to our demands, and when it takes the number one spot for most signatures, it will reaffirm that this issue is very important for Canadians.
As well as growing and signing petitions, he gave me a fantastic list of other ways to get involved:
There’s plenty every Canadian can do. Call your local MP and set up an appointment to talk to them about cannabis. Sign and share our e-18 petition on social media. Talk to your friends and family about this issue. Write a letter to a newspaper when they run a bad story about cannabis. Donate $20 to a court case or legalization group. Consider trying to open a cannabis dispensary in your town. If there is a dispensary in your town, show them some support. Call the Mayor’s office and let them you know you support dispensaries.
And that’s just to name a few. Finding your MP is as easy as entering your postal code here.
If you decide to join the Overgrow movement, Opus 420 has a few growing tips beyond what the Overgrow Canada site tells you: “Avoid wet, low areas that are heavily shaded, places with high human traffic, and hilltops as there is often very little water and you will need to visit and haul water at least four times a week to irrigate.” He’s written a fantastic article for us, with even more advice.
Now is the time to take back our freedoms and show the government we no longer tolerate these archaic laws. To show the naysayers that they are wrong in vilifying marijuana. Things are looking up for our rights, and this victim-free showing of civil disobedience will do far more than any 420 celebration.
This is new. This is progressive. This will be a grand exhibition of a peaceful revolution, long overdue. Lets allow the politicians and their followers to see for themselves how harmless this plant is.