Longtime cannabis advocate and political candidate Michael Baldasaro has passed away in Hamilton.

Baldasaro was 67 when he died Thursday morning after a quick battle with prostate cancer that had spread through his body. Baldasaro had only been in hospice care for around a week.

“I’m the common guy,” Baldasaro. “It’s about time we had someone who knows reality.”

According to a 2006 candidate profile, Baldasaro was born in 1949 and said he’d been a general contractor, operating engineer, professor, human rights activist and “aspiring servant to my fellow human beings all my life.”

Baldasaro was a Church of the Universe minister and had run for office at all levels of government as a Libertarian, Marijuana Party and Independent candidate, running for Conservative party leader in 1998 and mayor of Hamilton in 2014.

Baldasaro ran on a platform of limiting term limits and lowering councillor salaries, finishing with 2.87 per cent of the vote out of twelve candidates, in 2014.

Current Hamilton mayor Fred Eisenberger said “Michael was a true champion of Hamilton, commitment to the city & his Church of the Universe.”

Church of the Universe member Karen Coruzzi said Baldasaro helped to restart her life 25 years ago, after falling into hard drugs and living on the street.

“He taught me to love myself,” she said. “He’s a great man.”

In 2011, Baldasaro and Church of the Universe founder Walter Tucker lost their appeal to be exempt from Canada’s cannabis laws after being sentenced to jail time.

“People will not stop smoking pot even if we did,” Baldasaro said. “I ain’t leading anybody. Rev. Tucker and I are just fighting for our religious rights. It’s not like I’m building guns and selling them on the street.”

Church member Rev. Juliet Boyd said, before his death, Baldasaro had seen Justin Trudeau’s attempts to legalize cannabis as turning a “holy sacrament” into a corporate commodity.

“It’s big business now, and that, I think, was his biggest beef with this,” said Boyd.

The church will hold a memorial for Baldasaro within the next few months.

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