Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Politicians weigh in on pot admission

Reefer madness hits Parliament after Trudeau confesses toking

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OTTAWA -- Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau's marijuana mea culpa has sparked some serious reefer madness on Parliament Hill.

Trudeau's confession he smoked a joint after becoming an MP has put the pot-smoking predilections of politicians -- if any -- under the microscope.

It now seems every parliamentarian is being asked if they've ever fired up a fattie.

Indonesia's foreign minister must have wondered what everyone else was smoking when his Canadian counterpart got the cannabis question Friday during a news conference that followed their meeting.

For the record, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says he has stayed away from the drug after seeing a U.S. Supreme Court nominee withdraw after it emerged he had smoked marijuana in college.

"I came of age politically in the 1980s and I can recall when one of President (Ronald) Reagan's nominees for the U.S. Supreme Court had to withdraw because of his use of that substance, so I took my example from that," Baird said.

The question also came up at a news conference with Employment Minister Jason Kenney and Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander.

'I think most Canadians expect that their member of Parliament will obey the law'

-- Justice Minister Peter MacKay

Kenney says he has never smoked a joint -- although he did admit to drinking coffee, a jab at the java-averse Trudeau.

"I'll let Mr. Trudeau's comments and actions speak for themselves," Kenney said, parroting Prime Minister Stephen Harper's response from a day earlier.

"All I can say is, I would like to make a public confession that I do drink coffee."

Alexander chimed in, saying he, too, drinks coffee.

Justice Minister Peter MacKay also got in on the pot pile-on, saying most Canadians expect their elected representatives to stick to the straight and narrow.

"It's currently against the law to smoke dope. I think most Canadians expect that their member of Parliament will obey the law," MacKay said Friday in Halifax.

"But this admission of smoking marijuana, breaking the law, doing so knowingly while he was a member of Parliament -- the politics of this are such that there's an element of hypocrisy of having voted on the record to increase penalties around the same time that he was lighting up. So his credibility is a little up in smoke."

Trudeau, who was elected to Parliament in 2008, voted a year later for mandatory minimum sentences for marijuana production.

The Liberal leader told the Huffington Post Canada he's smoked pot five or six times in his life, never enjoyed it much, and doesn't do it anymore.

He told the website he last smoked marijuana about three years ago at his house in Montreal, outside on a patio by the pool.

Not everyone was such a buzzkill, though. In an interview with Global TV's The Morning Show, actor George Takei praised Trudeau's candour.

"It's going to be a great positive for him," said Takei, who played Mr. Sulu on the original Star Trek TV series.

"It serves Canada well to have a politician who can be known for his honesty and forthrightness."

One of Trudeau's caucus colleagues also came to his defence.

'People admire Justin's candour and his common sense'

-- Liberal MP Scott Brison

"People admire Justin's candour and his common sense," Liberal MP Scott Brison said in an interview. "I've also had comments from people that find people like Stephen Harper and Peter MacKay hopelessly out of touch with near-toxic levels of sanctimony and more interested in attacking someone's character than actually listening to reason."

He said no one has questioned Trudeau's judgment in toking while an MP.

"No, I have not heard that at all from anybody," he said, dismissing Tory attempts to persuade Canadians Trudeau is unfit to govern.

"It's a little rich coming from Stephen Harper, whose judgment put Pamela Wallin and Mike Duffy in the Senate ... so, you want to talk about judgment, let's talk judgment. Bring it on."

As for himself, Brison said he too has smoked pot in the past and "I did inhale." But he said, "it's been a very long time" -- indeed, before he became an MP in 1997 -- since he last toked up.

The Huffington Post said the NDP leader's office confirmed Tom Mulcair has smoked pot "but sent strongly worded emails refusing to say when he last used the drug or where he procured it." Mulcair's office later clarified he had not smoked marijuana since he was first elected to public office -- which was in Quebec politics in 1994.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 24, 2013 A8

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