MONTREAL -- Watch out, Stockwell Day! Ontario Provincial Police have in their possession a recent photograph of the Canadian Alliance leader and what appears to be a marijuana joint.
The photo will be exhibit A when the interim leader of the fledgling federal Marijuana party, Marc-Boris St.-Maurice, and a colleague face marijuana possession charges in an Ontario court later this year.
If St.-Maurice -- founder of Quebec's Bloc Pot party, which garnered over 10,000 votes in the last provincial election -- has his way, the pic of Stock's mug will be in the court of public opinion long before that.
"I'm just waiting for Jean Chretien to drop the writ and call a by-election," he says confidently. "Then I'm off to Okanagan-Coquihalla to go mano-a-mano with Stockwell Day."
"We're putting marijuana at the top of the agenda, and I'm itching for a debate."
As for the controversial photo, which led to a police search and subsequent charges against St.-Maurice and Bloc Pot colleague Hugo St.-Onge, St.-Maurice insists it was all a joke.
They'd been invited to a festival near Sault Ste. Marie, a fundraiser for the medical marijuana defence fund administered by Osgoode Hall law professor and noted pot crusader Allen Young.
"After 12 hours on these roads," St.-Maurice explains via cellphone from somewhere outside the Sault, "you need a little humour. We stuck Stock's photo on the dashboard -- sort of a Zen, focus-on-your-adversary thing -- along with a rolled cigarette made up to look like a joint. It's just tobacco. We weren't wasting a good joint."
At a police roadblock outside the festival entrance, St.-Maurice was asked if he had any narcotics, to which he replied, "I don't think I have to answer that."
The cop was not amused. He promptly seized the photo of Day and the ersatz joint as "probable grounds" for a search of their vehicle and persons, which yielded less than an ounce between the two of them.
This was not St.-Maurice's first run-in with OPP.
While recruiting candidates and campaigning for the Marijuana party, he's had a number of police encounters, most notably in the past two months.
Formal complaint The first occurred in Swastika, Ontario, near Kirkland Lake. After pulling him over for a speeding violation, the cop couldn't help but notice that St.-Maurice's car was covered with pro-marijuana stickers. He asked permission to search the car, which St.-Maurice refused.
The cop then threatened that if he wouldn't comply, he'd be stopped every 10 miles throughout Ontario.
St.-Maurice stood his ground, and so did the cop. Over the next 48 hours, the OPP stopped and hassled him on four separate occasions. It was so stressful, he's filed a formal complaint with the Ontario Police Commission.
"I demand an apology. Someone has to let the police know they can't get away with hassling people on suspicion of marijuana possession," he says. "I was hurt and stressed. I'm only 31 and I've never had a heart attack, but they gave me some idea what it might feel like."
He also wonders why his political adversary, who acknowledges past marijuana use, hasn't received similar attention.
"So far as I'm concerned," says St.-Maurice, "Stockwell Day confessed to a criminal act (by admitting that he smoked grass in the past). That makes him a criminal. I've only been accused of alleged crimes."
St.-Maurice also faces marijuana possession charges stemming from a police raid on Montreal's compassion club last February.
The Okanagan-Coquihalla by-election will be the first federal test of both leaders.
The riding, said to be a right-wing stronghold and a likely shoe-in for the Canadian Alliance, also boasts some of BC's best marijuana-growing country, and the herb represents a significant slice of the local economy.
"We have to put marijuana at the top of the national agenda," affirms St.-Maurice. "Canada is the key to ending prohibition. Our advancements in dealing with medical marijuana and steady progress through the courts for recreational users make this the most likely country to lead the way on global marijuana reform."
Sidesteps issues St.-Maurice wisely sidesteps other contentious issues that have emerged with Day's sudden appearance on the federal scene. Gay rights, abortion and flat taxes hold no immediate interest for him.
"We're a one-issue party," he says, "and make no apologies for it. We're here to discuss and debate marijuana. C'est tout."
St.-Maurice and St.-Onge have a September 11 court date in Sault Ste. Marie, where the police must produce Stockwell Day's photograph as evidence of a crime.