Pubdate: Wed, 08 Jan 2003
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2003, The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Kim Lunman


OTTAWA -- They inhaled -- and exhaled.

Several front-runners in the New Democratic Party leadership race admitted 
in a nationally televised debate last night to smoking pot at some point in 
their lives. The question was raised in connection with the candidates' 
position on decriminalizing marijuana.

Jack Layton, a well-known Toronto city councillor, joked that he never 
exhaled, a reference to the effects of second-hand smoke.

"Six or seven million Canadians have tried marijuana. Are they criminals? I 
don't think so," Mr. LAyton said.

"What we do need to do is take a sensible approach."

Mr. Layton said the federal government, which is planning to decriminalize 
marijuana this year, should go further and legalize pot.

"Unlike Jack, who has amazing respiratory powers, I did exhale," veteran 
Winnipeg MP Bill Blaikie said. "I'm a creature of my generation like a lot 
of other people who turned 18 in 1969, but it's been a long time since I 
inhaled or exhaled. But I think it's long overdue that we stop making 
criminals out of people who choose to smoke marijuana."

Mr. Blaikie, who is in a tight race with Mr. Layton, said that the war on 
drugs in the United States isn't working and that Canada should 
decriminalize marijuana.

"Unlike Bill, when I was a university student I didn't just exhale, I 
inhaled and exhaled a couple of times," Regina MP Lorne Nystrom said. "I 
don't smoke and I didn't like smoking and since than I haven't even tried it."

He called on the government to legalize marijuana to take distribution out 
of "criminal hands."

Pierre Ducasse, a Quebec party organizer, also admitted to smoking 
marijuana once. "I think we should legalize it and put it under state 
control and take it out of the black market," he said.

Windsor, Ont., MP Joe Comartin, who said he has never smoked pot, suggested 
that marijuana be legalized and distributed by a government-regulated 
agency "like a liquor control board."

Vancouver activist Bev Meslo refused to say whether she had ever smoked 
pot. "I don't think I should have to answer any questions about my personal 
life whether they pertain to how old my grandson is or what and if I 
smoke," she said. But her position on the political pot question was clear. 
"I believe marijuana should be deregulated. I believe it should grow like 

The convention to replace retiring leader Alexa McDonough will be held in 
Toronto Jan. 24-26.

The Liberal government's decision to decriminalize marijuana followed a 
recent recommendation in a parliamentary report on the non-medical use of 
drugs. A Senate report last fall also urged the government to legalize pot.

Under the plan to decriminalize, people caught with small amounts of 
marijuana would not be criminally charged but would face fines.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Stevens