With a cannabis leaf fl ag fl apping and the sounds of the jazz festival in the backgroud, the Saskatchewan Marijuana Party held a barbecue in Kiwanis Park Saturday afternoon to raise money for its coffers and for the Saskatoon Food Bank.

The barbecue was its fi rst event since gaining offi cial party status on June 7. The marijuana party plans to help the community as well as campaign to legalize cannabis.

"As a community-minded organization, we will endeavour to help those who are most in need where we can," said Nathan Holowaty, the party leader.

The party has been in the works since October 2004. Mike Kereiff, the deputy leader, said he's been involved in the party "since Day 1." He said that when Marc Emery, a B.C. marijuana activist, was released from jail in Saskatoon in October 2004 after serving a sentence for drug traffi cking, some of his supporters had a celebration. At that point, they decided to start a Saskatchewan Marijuana Party.

There weren't too many party supporters at the barbecue, but Holowaty said he hopes to fi eld candidates in all 58 ridings in the next provincial election.

The main party platform is the legalization of cannabis.

But the members of the party are politically diverse. Holowaty used to be the president of the University of Saskatchewan NDP club, while Ethan Erkiletian, the party president, is a self-described Red Tory." "Basically you can be from all affi liations. We just believe we want to end cannabis prohibition," Holowaty said.

Kerieff said there are many reasons to legalize cannabis, which is one of his motivations for supporting the party. He noted that it's one of the oldest plants with recognized therapeutic value, that hemp oil has nutritional value and hemp fi bre is very useful.

"There's the added bonus that it's a relatively harmless recreational substance, more harmless than alcohol," he added.

Not all of the members use marijuana, though.

Erkiletian said that he abstains from alcohol and drugs, including marijuana.

"It's a matter of personal choice. That's pretty much what it all boils down to. I believe prohibition is an ineffective policy and therefore I have no trouble supporting this party the way I do," Erkiletian said.

The party doesn't have many defi ned policies yet, but Erkiletian said that will come once they have a party convention. Holowaty said to date, the provincial party is " dealing with social issues." "We're socially conscious and we want a healthy society," Holowaty said.

Their conscience was in practice as they sold burgers and hot dogs. Half of the proceeds, or $150, was to be donated to the food bank.

No one from the food bank was available to comment on whether they had any reservations about accepting money from the Saskatchewan Marijuana Party, but Erkiletian said he didn't think there were any concerns.