TERRACE, BRITISH COLUMBIA — On Saturday April 20, activists and cannabis enthusiasts will gather in cities across Canada, including Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Halifax and Yellowknife. It is hoped the events will be a watershed moment for cannabis law reform as Canadians seek to follow their American counterparts and end the social injustice of cannabis prohibition.
This year, the annual nationwide 420 celebrations are entirely sponsored by lottery winner Bob Erb.
When Bob Erb started buying lottery tickets in the early 1970s, ending the war against cannabis may have seemed more likely than hitting the jackpot.
On November 2, 2012, four decades of playing the lottery paid off: Bob Erb won a $25,000,000 jackpot. Two days later, Canadian laws regarding cannabis changed too as mandatory minimum sentencing for cannabis offences came into effect.
To some, winning the lottery would mean retiring from a life-long career of cannabis activism. But to a man who describes the criminalization of cannabis as the "biggest social injustice" of his lifetime, the money meant a chance to do more.
Bob Erb has championed social justice issues, including cannabis law reform, for decades. He has seen firsthand the harm and waste caused by cannabis prohibition, and has set about making change. Particularly, he has tried to create change from within: in 2001 he ran as a Marijuana Party candidate in the BC provincial election and the following year he ran for mayor. Both times his message was clear: its time for a change on cannabis.
Looking to the future, Bob has pledged one million dollars to fund national campaigns to end the criminal prohibition of cannabis and enact positive regulations regarding use, production and consumer safety. His goal is to see a pro-reform party elected in the next Canadian federal election.
So far, Bob Erb's contributions to the cannabis reform movement can be felt nationwide. In February he had a conference in his hometown of Terrace, BC. The conference brought together activists and policy experts from across Canada to discuss strategy for the future.
As a result of the conference, Bob committed one million dollars to legalize cannabis in Canada and pledged support to various reform organizations including Sensible BC, the NORML Women's Alliance of Canada, NORML Canada, Stop the Violence BC and the 420 rallies.
This Saturday, tens of thousands of Canadians will gather from coast to coast advocating cannabis law reform. Hopefully, individuals will feel part of something bigger than themselves or the local rally they attended.
Bob Erb's generosity has jump-started a national campaign to elect a new government ready to undertake modern approach to cannabis regulation. Advocates are confident cannabis law reform will be an issue in the next federal election. This year's 420 rallies will be a call to voters and the beginning of a movement in the name of Bob Erb.