In an October 3 interview, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien joked that he would start toking once he succeeded in passing his decrim bill.
“I don’t know what is marijuana,” Chretien told the Winnipeg Free Press. “Perhaps I will try it when it will no longer be criminal. I will have my money for my fine and a joint in the other hand.”
Chretien’s offhand joke brought an enraged response from US Drug Czar John Walters. Speaking before the US Center for Strategic International Studies, Walters claimed that Canadians “are concerned about the behavior of their Prime Minister, joking that he is going to use marijuana in his retirement.They’re ashamed.”
Yet if pot-friendly Canadians are ashamed of their PM, it is more likely because Canadian marijuana arrests have risen every year during his 10 years in power. His last-minute efforts notwithstanding, Chretien has presided over more pot prisoners than any Canadian leader before him.
A similar kind of last-minute recanting of pot prohibition came from US President Bill Clinton, after it was too late for him to act.
In a December 2000 interview with Rolling Stone, published only weeks before he left office, Clinton openly supported decriminalization of marijuana.
“I think that most small amounts of marijuana have been decriminalized in some places, and should be,” said Clinton, adding, “We really need a re-examination of our entire policy on imprisonment.”
Yet Clinton’s policies saw the largest increase in the American prison population of all time. During his administration, the annual number of pot busts more than doubled, and the percentage of possession busts rose substantially.
What strange forces are at work when the elected leaders of free nations cannot say what they believe until they are almost retired? The pot culture needs elected leaders who are willing to speak out for marijuana law reform at the beginning of their term of office, not at the very end!