- THE POLITICS OF POT
Prime Minister Jean Chretien recently announced
that Canada needs “decreased government intervention instead of draconian
police action.” Unfortunately for some, Chretien was referring to tobacco.
He was not repeating the sentiments on
cannabis laws which he expressed before Parliament in 1981, when he said
“We do think that once in a while we have to modernize laws which have
been on the books for so long and do not cope with realities as they exist.”
Sixteen years later the laws are still
on the books and the reality of a criminal record for possession and prison
for growing still hasn’t changed.
The deceptively named Reform Party is sending
mixed signals on marijuana. In regards to restrictions on medicinal herbs,
Reform health critic Grant Hill recently said that “government should not
ban any natural products, vitamins, minerals, and herbal products, until
harm has been shown.” Yet he’s all for the ban on marijuana.
?The Vancouver South Constituency
Association passed a resolution for the 1994 Assembly, to “decriminalize
all drugs at the federal level” by a margin of 37 to 15. Yet the “tough
on crime” reform party has generally ridiculed advocates of cannabis decriminalization,
without suggesting alternatives.
The other party leaders have been more
candid. “I think it is madness for young people to end up with criminal
records for the simple possession of marijuana,” said NDP leader Alexa
McDonough to a cheering crowd on MuchMusic. “I tried it once, but I’ve
never smoked a cigarette and I didn’t know how to do it.”
BQ Leader Gilles Duceppe joined the ranks
of Pierre Trudeau, Kim Campbell and PC leader Jean Charest who have not
only tried marijuana but knew how to do it. “Like everyone else from my
generation I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t done it,” Duceppe said in Quebec
City. “Yes, yes, I inhaled,” laughed Duceppe.
Despite his confession, Duceppe remains
firmly on the fence regarding cannabis laws. He thinks decriminalization
should be studied by yet another panel of experts. When asked if he agrees
with criminalizing non-violent cannabis users he said, “We look at the
billions that have been spent on that and the billions that organized crime
groups are making, and bikers, and the mafia. That’s not the solution either.”
Does political leadership lead to cannabis?
Does cannabis lead to political leadership? One has to wonder when three
out of five party leaders have enjoyed the herb, compared to one in five
Canadians. Or could it be that regular Canadians have more to lose by admitting
to marijuana use than do their elected leaders?
By Matthew Elrod