MONTREAL - The leader of the Marijuana Party, who ran against Prime Minister Paul Martin in the 2004 general election, has quit and joined the Liberals.

Marc-Boris St-Maurice, who won 221 votes in the riding of LaSalle-…mard in last year's election, announced Monday that he had resigned in December to join Martin's party. St-Maurice has led the Marijuana Party since it started in 2000.

"I believe that if any party will ever legalize marijuana in Canada, it is the Liberals," St-Maurice, who lives in Montreal, said in a statement.

"And I hope to bring my knowledge and expertise on this issue to help the Liberal Party develop new policies, programs and legislation which address the marijuana situation."

Martin's Liberals reintroduced a controversial bill in November that would decriminalize marijuana possession and replace criminal charges with fines for anyone caught with up to 15 grams of the drug.

St-Maurice said he will attend the Liberal policy convention on the weekend to rally support for a resolution calling for the legalization of marijuana.

"I think there is wide support for marijuana reform within the Liberal Party and I am confident that a large proportion of these silent supporters will come forward once the issue is pressed."

St-Maurice began campaigning to legalize the possession and use of pot about 15 years ago, when he was arrested for possession and spent 24 hours in jail.

He formed a provincial party called Bloc Pot that earned 10,000 votes in the 1998 Quebec election.

He helped found the Marijuana Party and rounded up 73 candidates to run in the 2000 federal election.