Pubdate: Sat, 24 Aug 2013
Source: Tribune, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2013, Osprey Media Group Inc.
Author: Peter Epp
Page: 4


Justin Trudeau may have overplayed his hand this week when he 
admitted in an interview that he has smoked marijuana since being elected MP.

While Canadians' attitudes toward marijuana use have greatly shifted 
in the past 10 years, with many believing that use should be 
decriminalized, those same folks may be uncomfortable with the idea 
that people invested with a measure of authority - surgeons, bankers, 
judges, school principals and police officers... and perhaps even 
Members of Parliament - would use marijuana. They'd be even more 
uncomfortable if that use was publicly admitted.

And so Canada's federal leader is taking a bit of a risk, entering 
into uncharted political waters. Only a few weeks ago, he announced 
he would be in favour of marijuana's decriminalization. And his 
admission to using the narcotic since election as MP was obviously in 
response to a supplementary question from a reporter, based on 
earlier comments about decriminalization.

Trudeau's views on decriminalization make sense on a few levels. Even 
Canada's police chiefs appear to agree... somewhat. Earlier this 
week, while meeting in Winnipeg, police chief delegates agreed to a 
resolution that would seek marijuana's decriminalization, to the 
point that offenders of marijuana drug laws would be issued a fine, 
just like a speeding ticket, rather than having to make a formal 
court appearance.

The chiefs' resolution comes from a practical perspective. It's more 
cost-effective to issue a speeding ticket to a motorist than to drag 
that same motorist into a courtroom, while tying up the arresting 
officer's time. Ditto for marijuana use. But marijuana use would 
still be illegal, just as driving a vehicle too fast is illegal.

We don't know if Justin Trudeau has been driving too fast since being 
elected MP. Most of us stand convicted of that periodic offence. But 
the fact that he used marijuana since being elected to federal office 
isn't as easy to forget, nor easy to put aside.

Even Bill Clinton, a master of the political game, had to be careful 
when asked the same question while seeking the U.S. presidency. 
Clinton admitted he had "tried marijuana", but... incredulously... 
said he never inhaled. Nobody believed him then, and given his later 
sexual episode with a White House intern (which Clinton claimed 
didn't involve sexual intimacy), his denials about the inhalation of 
marijuana smoke became all the more suspect.

For those who suggest there exists a double-standard... well, there 
is. We expect our elected politicians to lead lives of quiet decorum. 
We expect them to not steal from the public, to remain faithful to 
their spouse, and to maintain good judgement about their public and 
private conduct.

Even Clinton recognized that he was dangerously close to exceeding 
the limits of public acceptance when asked about his marijuana use. 
Perhaps we're beyond that today, but perhaps we're not.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom