Matt Mernagh starts his day vaporizing marijuana into a plastic bag. He smokes several times a day, consuming several grams to relieve pain from an inoperable brain tumor that causes seizures. He has fibromyalgia, which in addition to pain causes his spine to curve sideways.
For almost 20 years, Mernagh, 40, has fought for the rights of medical marijuana users; he’s been attempting to legalize marijuana in an ongoing court case with the federal government.
This year, however, Mernagh is fighting a different battle. This year, he’s running to be mayor of Toronto.
“A lot of my friends and I would get into civic discussion and out of these talks, some would say, ‘You (Mernagh) should run for mayor,’” he said.
Mernagh registered his candidacy at the start of the year. His campaign manager, Tracy Lamourie, 44, says their campaign has been limited thus far.
“It’s hard to get our volunteers out during the winter,” Lamourie said. “Now that spring has arrived, many of our volunteers who are students will be available to go door-to-door.”
During the winter, Mernagh and his team of volunteers raised donations, canvassed in downtown apartments and held public meetings. With weather improving, Mernagh moved to the street. As one of the organizers of 4/20 Toronto, he used the opportunity to raise awareness of his candidacy.
The Toronto municipal election of 2014 has no shortage of fringe candidates, who are defined by a unique trait or unusual campaign focus. Morgan Baskin, 18, is making headlines for her youth. Dominatrix Carlie Ritch is one of the latest fringe candidates to join the race in March 20.
Al Gore is also running for mayor. He says the only thing he lacks that the major candidates have is money.
“I’m not part of the millionaires club,” Gore said. “But what are they (major candidates) gonna do? They’re more concerned with pay cheques than with people.”
While Mernagh shares similar sentiment, he said the difference is in the ideas.
“We’re the alternative to the establishment,” he said. “I want to employ good ideas and people right for the job. I owe no political favours.”
Mernagh admits his chances of winning are slim, but believes his candidacy is a stepping-stone to a long-term career in municipal politics.
“We didn’t know where our support base would be,” he said. “So out of the gate, we can run for mayor. … By the time October ends, we’ll have a platform all completed.
“Then, we can show people in four years when I do run for city council who says ‘You’re just that marijuana guy’ and we be like ‘No, we had this meeting and we did that and we did this,’” Mernagh said.