Canadian politicians are awfully casual about history with marijuana

Wes Tyrell cartoon
Wes Tyrell cartoon

We've had some fun this past week, haven't we? Laughing jovially over the series of revelations that this politician smoked a little pot once, or that politician has smoked tons of it, all the time..

We've added a few cheeky asides, har har, about how cool it is or how square others appear to be.

Even those tightwads who claim to have never touched the stuff have made their jokes. Our prime minister says he doesn't look like a guy who experimented with drugs.

He did previously, however, say he had been once offered a joint but was too drunk to take it. Kudos to us, we are all so progressive. We cut loose; we are average guys and gals.

Yet in Canada, marijuana possession is illegal. We are not nearly as cool with pot as Colorado or Washington, where the drug has been decriminalized. Or America as a whole, after the Obama administration announced they would not stop states from legalizing it, should they choose to.

In Canada, we are still talking about whether pot should be decriminalized, which is essentially legalese for "don't ask, don't tell."

[ Politics: Tories slam Justin Trudeau over support for marijuana ]

Support for either decriminalization or legalization, as Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau now supports, is the wish of the majority of Canadians.

A Forum research poll conducted last week found 36 per cent of respondents wanted to legalize pot and 34 per cent preferred decriminalization – a combined 70 per cent of Canadians calling for the laws to be weakened or stripped away entirely.

The Globe and Mail reports the numbers of support are highest among younger votes, perhaps not surprisingly, and not divided along party lines.

The idea that one’s perspective on the issue doesn’t fall along party affiliation is best represented by the movement’s two new figureheads: Justin Trudeau, who admitted to taking a “puff” of it, and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who laughingly admits to smoking “a ton” of it. Two more disparate politicians you’ll never find. Yet both firmly in Camp Weed.

That's where we are. Hazy, unclear and ripe for debate. Canada's perception of marijuana allows politicians to strike out and publicly declare, "I may have broken a law, but it was only pot."

Trudeau did just that, quite on purpose, when he admitted to smoking pot while a Member of Parliament. He copped to smoking a banned substance and here we are, debating whether to legalize it.

The Conservatives were up in arms, with Attorney General Peter MacKay accusing Trudeau of breaking the law (which perhaps he did or perhaps not, considering only the possession of marijuana is illegal).

And Prime Minister Stephen Harper has shown his disapproval, saying Trudeau’s actions speak for themselves. Yet on Thursday, he said he would consider a plan to ticket offenders caught with pot, rather than charging them all criminally — a form of decriminalization.

[ Pulse of Canada: Is Justin Trudeau setting a bad example for kids? ]

You see, even those who stand on firm ground on the legality of pot find themselves shifting with the current.

We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that marijuana is still illegal. Were I or Ford or Trudeau caught carrying the stuff, we could be fined and imprisoned for up to six months.

There is a sound argument that those politicians who admit to smoking pot should be chastised, much like those caught driving under the influence, or caught breaking election laws.

Yet politicians score points for sharing these secrets, and the public nods in approval, possibly adding a glib comment or two.

Where does Canada stand on marijuana? We should decide once and for all. Anything to put an end to these games.

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