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Dana Larsen has resigned as the New Democratic candidate in the British Columbia riding of West Vancouver - Sunshine Coast following questions raised about his role in a company that sold coca seedlings.

"There was concerns. We had discussions with Mr. Larsen and he has submitted his resignation as a candidate," Gerry Scott, campaign manager for the NDP national campaign in B.C., told The Globe and Mail in an interview Wednesday.

"We don't want this campaign to be about his activities in that area and he does not either. It was felt in order that there not be any distractions, that the resignation was a best course of action," Mr. Scott said.

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Mr. Larsen's resignation came hours after The Globe and Mail questioned Mr. Larsen about his involvement with the Vancouver Seed Bank, which sells seeds for coca plants with leaves containing cocaine alkaloids. The company also sells marijuana, poppy and hemp seeds. Mr. Larsen said he helped set up the company and worked as manager but no longer works for the company.

Mr. Larsen was a founding member of both the Marijuana Party of Canada and the B.C. Marijuana Party. He ran in the 2001 provincial election as a B.C. Marijuana Party candidate, pulling in 3.5 per cent of the vote. He joined the NDP in 2003.

Mr. Scott said the party will work with the riding to put a new candidate in the field. "That work will start later today," he said.

The party had bees aware of Mr. Larsen's past activities with the marijuana party, Mr. Scott also said. "That is not the issue," he said. "The issue arose because of inquiries that brought to light the issue of the coco plants and that is in another realm.

Mr. Larsen had wanted to campaign on improved medicare, jobs in the forest industry and lots of other things, Mr. Scott added. "But this is a controversy that is a digress and a distraction, and it wouldn't be a distraction in the campaign."

NDP Leader Jack Layton was not involved in the decision, Mr. Scott also said. As the campaign manager in B.C., he discussed the matter with NDP headquarters. Everyone agreed Mr. Larsen's resignation should be accepted and that was what was done, Mr. Scott said. "I did that on behalf of the national campaign."



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