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Hunger striker's sister thinks his death will pressure gov't to change pot laws

Nov 23 2011
Before he started his hunger strike moe than a month ago, 69-year-old Istvan Marton weighed 79 kilograms 

Before he started his hunger strike moe than a month ago, 69-year-old Istvan Marton weighed 79 kilograms

Photograph by: Courtesy, Handout

As Juliana Bazso mourns her brother's death, she takes comfort from knowing he died for his beliefs.

"In his soul, he believed he was doing a heroic act and when the police clamped down on him, it was so bad he knew he couldn't do it any more," she said.

Istvan "Steve" Marton, 69, the local marijuana dealer in Sointula, off the north-east coast of Vancouver Island, died in Port MacNeill Hospital Sunday after more than a month on a hunger strike to protest Canada's marijuana laws.

Marton's doctor, Jane Clelland, said he died after a massive heart attack, but the hunger strike and other underlying health problems contributed to his death.

Clelland said he was non-responsive for the last day of his life, but not totally unaware, and she believes he knew that the story of his crusade appeared in the Times Colonist that day.

Despite Marton's hopes that his friends would be treated to an unlimited-booze-and-pot party after his death, Bazso said the money he left will not stretch that far.

"If these friends of his want a celebration of his life they can do it with their own money," said Bazso, who never agreed with her brother breaking the law to sell marijuana.

"I don't think I am going to condone what I never condoned all my life," she said.

But Bazso believes that the marijuana laws will eventually have to be changed in Canada.

"I think his death will add to the pressure on government," she said.

Friends said they do not know whether there are others ready to go on hunger strikes to protest marijuana laws, as Marton claimed.

"I hope there aren't any. We need every combatant we can get for the revolution that is just getting underway," said friend and former customer Des McMurchy.

"I think Steve was clever enough to recognize the power of personal example and incremental change."

The war on drugs has been a massive failure of moral choice and public policy, McMurchy said.

"There is unlimited opportunity here with full legalization and taxation of production and use of marijuana, to remove the undesirable criminal element from marijuana production," he said.

"This is the path that Steve understood that we need to follow."

Supplies of marijuana in Sointula will be tight for those that need it, McMurchy said.

"But those who are resourceful will always find a way to their object."

Another friend, John McPhee, is not so optimistic that Marton's death will have any effect on the law.

"You can protest a lot of things, but nothing is ever going to happen," he said.

jlavoie@timescolonist.com

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