JUSTIN TRUDEAU SET OFF A FIRESTORM BY ADMITTING THAT HE’S SMOKED POT. WHICH BEGS THE QUESTION, WHEN ARE WE GOING TO
OUTGROW OUR HYPOCRISY ON EVERYONE’S FAVOURITE WEED?
Well Justin Trudeau ruffled a few feathers last week, didn’t he? While discussing the legalization of marijuana in Canada, Liberal leader and Papineau MP Justin Trudeau admitted that he’s smoked the cannabis in question five or six times over the course of his lifetime, including once after he was elected a Member of Parliament in 2008 (unlike tricky Bill, it turned out Justin did in fact, inhale). Many of his critics joined with members of the Conservative government (who expect to be campaigning against Trudeau in the next federal election) to pounce on the admission as a reflection of his shortcomings as both a leader and a man; not only did he consume a controlled substance, he did so as a member of Parliament, bringing disgrace and shame to the noble House of Commons and the Institution of the Canadian government. OK, I’m embellishing a little, but suffice to say, there were more than a few people who were genuinely miffed that Trudeau Jr. had partaken of the Mary Jane, and while they might be able to forgive him if it was all youthful indiscretion, the fact he did so as an adult (and father) seemed to be an even more unforgivable crime.
The debate around legal marijuana was already occupying headlines here in Ottawa as police and municipal authorities have found themselves in a sort of unofficial tug of war with a new marijuana dispensary that opened in the Nation’s Capital in June (called the Greater Ottawa Health Advocacy Centre), and there’s been no shortage of legal acrobatics as a result. And last month, a group called the Ontario Safety League petitioned the provincial government to crack down on convenience stores and mom and pop shops selling marijuana paraphernalia like pipes, bongs and roach clips, claiming it’s availability sends the wrong message to children. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and suggest both the Conservatives and the OSL relax a little and grow up a bit. Maybe they should, you know, try a joint or two themselves.
For the most part, Canadians rate pot pretty low on their daily list of things that may kill, mug or otherwise violate them. Canada has a pretty laissez-faire attitude when it comes to enjoying a reefer or two (or four or five) and the use of medicinal marijuana is pretty much an accepted fact of Canadian life. Even the United States, a country whose movement on social issues often makes glaciers look hyper-active, has seen a shift in popular attitudes on weed, with more and more states legalizing it’s medicinal use (though there are still plenty of states that consider it a toxic enemy of both Jesus and the almighty State and have unleashed SWAT teams on places they suspect may be harbouring a plant or two). CNN’s popular medical guru, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, reversed his long-held opposition to the use of medicinal marijuana, describing his previous position on the matter wrong and ill-informed. Even President Barack Obama experimented with marijuana during his college days (and my oh my, didn’t FOX news and the Breitbart Report have a ball with that little nugget). Now in Trudeau’s case, there is a definite element of hypocrisy. In 2009, he voted in favour of legislation which would have introduced mandatory minimum sentences for possession of marijuana, and this would have been around the last time he toked up. Now while the Conservatives current attack strategy on this front failed (most Canadians dismissed the issue as a non-starter and some polls suggest Trudeau’s approval ratings-already higher than the Prime Minister’s according to some national number crunchers-got a bit of a bump), Canada’s Tories have proven nothing if not agile, and you can expect Stephen Harper’s camp to spin the pot issue as more of an hypocrisy and leadership one then a legal one moving forward. Some more hardcore members of Canada’s conservative media have tried painting this as a contemporary Adscam scandal, digging up “evidence” and dates in an attempt to draw some sort of elaborate conspiracy of, well, no one really knows. Failing that, they have criticized him for trying to score cheap political points with Canadian voters (don’t any public statements made by any politician, Liberal or Conservative, try to score political points with voters? With cheap ones being the best kind?), but the only Canadians to take their attempts seriously is the small fringe tribe who would hate the cure for cancer if it came from anyone who wasn’t a Conservative. If anything, Trudeau’s very, very rare (according to him) penchant for enjoying a joint now and then should be far less concerning then Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s increasingly common episodes of public drunkenness, as well as his occasional attempts to cover his missteps up before being confronted with concrete evidence. And that’s to say nothing of his (possibly unfounded) allegations of crack cocaine use. Personally, Trudeau’s admission doesn’t change my perception of him any. Mostly because aside from his support for legalizing marijuana, I have no idea what his policies are or where he stands on major issues. Has he offered an opinion on possible Canadian military involvement in Syria, for instance (or a concrete alternative if he opposes it)? What are his ideas for the economy and jobs? How does he plan on addressing the challenges our public healthcare system faces in the near future? What does he think of unmanned American drones in Canadian airspace? The atrocious and unacceptable conditions most of Canada’s First Peoples live in? Arctic Sovereignty? Quite often, his default stance seems to be whatever puts him squarely opposite of what the ruling Conservatives are saying. Those are the things that influence my decision when I’m casting my ballot, not if he indulged in a harmless hobby nearly a decade ago.
As for the Ontario Safety League, I’d be inclined to take them more seriously if they invested as much energy to remove tobacco products from stores as well, because let’s be honest folks, having kids smoking cigarettes is more likely and far, far more dangerous. And you can add alcohol to that list as well if you’d like. A lot of people refuse to believe it, but marijuana is a far more benign substance (though much more tightly controlled) then the products that Big Tobacco or your favorite brewery produces. When was the last time you heard of someone dying of marijuana cancer? Or being killed while toking and driving? Don’t confuse my sarcasm with mockery of serious tragedy, but the fact remains that cigarettes and alcohol are far more addictive (why do you think Big Tobacco in the US has been paying out billion dollar settlements for the better part of the past two decades?) and each can kill you in a hundred different ways with a dozen different breeds of cancer. And if you have any doubt about behavioral influences, just ask your local police force if they’d rather be called to a domestic dispute involving alcohol or marijuana. What do you think the answer might be? At best, weed may give someone a bad case of the munchies, little more. And when was the last time you heard of a doctor prescribing a medicinal cigarette or screwdriver? I rest my case.
The majority of opposition to marijuana is based on a very old, very obsolete and very hypocritical ideology, one that is slowly eroding in the face of growing awareness and acceptance. I myself believed it was a drug like many others until I began to think for myself and learned that most of what I’d been told about the substance was about as legit as Lance Armstrong’s Tour de France wins. Do I honestly care if a politician tokes up now and then? Not in the slightest? But do I care if he gets hammered more than occasionally? You betcha, because an addiction to alcohol doesn’t just pose a far greater threat to the addict in question, but to those around them as well (MADD has some pretty grim statistics on how many Canadian funerals take place every year as a result of drinking and driving). What I do care about is that public figure’s candor about the issue. And if a public organization decides to publicly wade into a debate, then they need to understand that any scent of hypocrisy is going to cost them serious credibility (quick query, if the OSL is so concerned about the well-being of our children, when was the last time they issued a public message on sugar, the 21st century’s new tobacco?). And when it comes to marijuana, the government already provides Canadians with more hypocrisy then they can stomach.
And you can rest easy mom. I, like President Clinton, have never inhaled but not for fear of the potential consequences, but rather because I couldn’t handle the smell (seriously, the stuff does reek). It’s the same reason I don’t drink coffee or tea (plus, can you honestly imagine me on caffeine? Didn’t think so.). But that time, during my slightly botched appendectomy, when there was a lapse of communication at the nurse’s station and I got an injection of painkiller as well as three or four pills? I’m not going to lie, THAT was pretty sweet.
- Justin Trudeau offers no apologies for smoking marijuana (metronews.ca)
- Justin Trudeau has smoked marijuana as an MP (o.canada.com)
- Justin Trudeau’s focus on pot over economy proof of ‘poor judgment’: Prime minister (canada.com)