Leaders' Joint Statements

Leaders' Joint Statements
Posted by FoM on May 15, 2000 at 09:42:32 PT
Jonathon Gatehouse, with files from Mark Stevenson
Source: National Post
Ever since Bill Clinton answered that he didn't inhale, political leaders have been asked by journalists whether they have smoked marijuana. Canadian politicians take a deep breath and come clean on their pastStockwell Day inhaled when he was young. Ralph Klein has been one toke over the line on a number of occasions. 
Jean Charest, Alexa McDonough, Allan Rock, Gilles Duceppe and a raft of other political figures in Canada all admit to passing the dutchie at least once. Since Bill Clinton was first asked whether he had ever smoked pot in the run-up to the 1992 U.S. presidential elections, the question of past usage of marijuana has been a favoured curve ball in the arsenal of bored journalists around the world. And the politicians have, for the most part, dutifully stepped up to the plate -- either admitting their youthful folly with a nudge and a wink, or soberly declaring a lifelong aversion to anything herbal other than tea. Armed with the results of a new poll that suggests the vast majority of Canadians don't give a tinker's damn whether their elected representatives spent their formative years in a stupor or attending Mensa meetings (90% of respondents said they don't have any feelings, one way or the other, about Mr. Day's past pot transgressions versus the exemplary behaviour of his Canadian Alliance rivals, Preston Manning and Tom Long) the National Post set out to put the issue to rest once and for all. Following Mr. Klein's surprise declaration last week that he favours the decriminalization of marijuana for personal use, and has indeed broken the law himself in the past, reporters sought out the public position of Canada's 10 premiers and five federal party leaders on the country's most popular illegal substance. Jean Chretien, Prime Minister: Following the controversy surrounding snowboarder Ross Rebagliati's positive test for marijuana at the 1998 Winter Olympics, the Prime Minister was asked about his past drug use while appearing on a Winnipeg call-in show. "Clinton smoked it but he did not inhale and other leaders said they use it," said Mr. Chretien. "For me I don't even use a cigarette. Perhaps I should try that, but it would become a controversy." His government, under Allan Rock, the Health Minister, is moving ahead with clinical trials to determine the medical benefits of marijuana, but has shown little inclination to decriminalize or legalize wider use of the drug. "The government has no plans to introduce legislation to decriminalize possession of marijuana," a spokeswoman for Anne McLellan, the Justice Minister, said last week. Officials from the Department of Justice, the Solicitor-General's office and Health have been studying the issue, however, and will be following the deliberations of a special Senate committee on Drug Use in Canada that is to begin hearings this fall, she added. For the record, Paul Martin hasn't smoked pot either. Preston Manning, former Reform party leader, now seeking the top job in the Canadian Alliance: Mr. Manning, the son of Ernest Manning, the former premier of Alberta and a well-known evangelical preacher, is on record as never having tried pot, not even once. Under his tenure as opposition leader, Keith Martin, a Reform backbencher also seeking the Alliance leadership, introduced a private member's bill in the House of Commons to make marijuana possession punishable by a fine, rather than a criminal sentence. A proposal that the Canadian Alliance adopt a similar policy was soundly defeated at the party's inaugural convention. Alexa McDonough, leader of the NDP: During the 1997 federal election, Ms. McDonough admitted to having smoked pot, but in a Clintonesque twist claimed she was "put off by the inhaling process." Her party has long supported the decriminalization of the drug for personal use and the legalization of pot for medicinal purposes. Gilles Duceppe, leader of the Bloc Quebecois: Quizzed about his past during the 1997 campaign, Mr. Duceppe also admitted to having smoked pot, though more successively than his NDP rival. "Yes, yes, I inhaled," said the 52-year-old. "Like everyone from my generation, I'd be lying if I said I hadn't done it." The Bloc supports the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes and several individual caucus members have indicated that they favour decriminalization. Joe Clark, Progressive Conservative leader: During his first stint as Tory leader in the late 1970s, Mr. Clark was a passionate supporter of decriminalization of marijuana possession. In fact, the Progressive Conservative government of 1979-80 gave notice in its Throne Speech that it intended to reform the Criminal Code provisions regarding pot, but to the dismay of tokers everywhere were defeated before making the revisions. When they returned to power four years later, under Brian Mulroney, times had changed, and the promise was scrapped. Mr. Clark's handlers declined repeated requests for an interview about his current views on pot or his personal history with the drug. Brian Tobin, Premier of Newfoundland: It took several days of prodding to get the normally ultra media-friendly Mr. Tobin to address the issue, but in the end he confirmed that he is both a former pot smoker and a supporter of decriminalization. "Like the vast majority of people of my generation, the answer [to the question of past use] is yes," said the 46-year-old Premier. "[But] I don't think we should pretend at all that it is a normal consumer product. It is one thing to talk about decriminalization, that I would support. It is quite another to talk about legalization, that I would definitely not support ... I don't think that a young teenager who has experimented with marijuana and has been caught doing that should carry a criminal record." John Hamm, Premier of Nova Scotia: Mr. Hamm, a physician, approves of the medical use of marijuana, but that's as far as it goes. "Decriminalization is not at the top of our priority list," said Rob Batherson, the Premier's spokesman. Mr. Hamm, he added, has never indulged. Pat Binns, Premier of Prince Edward Island: Did not respond to repeated requests for an interview on the subject of marijuana. Bernard Lord, Premier of New Brunswick: Mr. Lord, Canada's youngest premier -- he was just 33 when he was elected last June -- did not return calls seeking his views on marijuana. Perhaps the Premier is mindful of problems one of his predecessors as provincial Tory leader had with the drug. In 1984, Richard Hatfield, then premier, was charged with possession of 26.5 grams of marijuana when his travel bag was searched by the RCMP while he was accompanying Queen Elizabeth on a tour of the province. He was found not guilty the following year. Lucien Bouchard, Premier of Quebec: "No, the Premier has never smoked pot," an aide said last week, after passing the question on to her boss. Though past Parti Quebecois leaders and the party's rank and file have long had a tolerant attitude toward marijuana, the separatist movement does not have an official position on the decriminalization of the drug. At their convention last weekend, however, PQ members narrowly voted down a resolution calling for marijuana to be legalized in a sovereign Quebec after a debate on the convention floor. Delegates had raised the spectre that the resolution could link Quebec independence to smoking pot. "To see decriminalization associated with a sovereign Quebec, I find that embarrassing," said Jocelyn Jallette, a PQ delegate from Joliette. "We should not associate sovereignty with a little joint of pot." Mike Harris, Premier of Ontario: Mr. Harris went on record during his 1999 re-election campaign as having never smoked marijuana. "I found booze a little more attractive," the Tory leader told reporters. This week, a spokesman said the Premier opposes decriminalization. "He feels it sends the wrong message to young people," said Pierre Leduc. Mr. Harris also believes the debate over medical marijuana should be left to health professionals. Gary Doer, Premier of Manitoba: "The Premier is on the record that he hasn't used [pot], but he doesn't condemn those who have," said Donne Flanagan, a spokesman. The issue of decriminalization isn't on the Manitoba government's radar screen, and the Premier has no opinion on the medicinal use of ganja. Roy Romanow, Premier of Saskatchewan: After days of requests, Mr. Romanow faxed the National Post an answer to the question of whether he had ever smoked pot. "No," was the curt response from the normally loquacious Premier. The government of Saskatchewan "has not yet formulated its position" on the matters of decriminalization and the medical application of marijuana. Ralph Klein, Premier of Alberta: Last week, Mr. Klein came out in favour of looking at the idea of simply ticketing people found with pot, rather than charging them under the Criminal Code. The Premier, who has a reputation as a bon vivant, told reporters that he has used the drug in the past. "I was asked the question if I ever smoked dope and I said 'Yes, I inhaled,' " he said. "But it made me paranoid and I don't want to be any more paranoid than I am right now." Ujjal Dosanjh, Premier of British Columbia: When he was attorney-general for B.C., Mr. Dosanjh came out against his federal NDP cousins' position in favour of decriminalization, saying drugs harm people's health and society. "I don't believe drugs by and large, ought to be freely available," he said. Mr. Dosanjh, who supports the "status quo" on drugs, says he has never smoked pot. WHAT THEY SAID: "Like the vast majority of the people of my generation, the answer is yes." -- Brian Tobin, Newfoundland Premier "For me I don't even use a cigarette." -- Jean Chretien, Prime Minister "... put off by the inhaling process." -- Alexa McDonough, NDP leader "Like the vast majority of the people of my generation, the answer is yes." -- Brian Tobin, Newfoundland Premier "I found booze a little more attractive." -- Mike Harris, Ontario Premier "Yes, I inhaled. But it made me paranoid and I don't want to be any more paranoid than I am right now." -- Ralph Klein, Alberta PremierRELATED SITES:UN Drug Control Programme:, it's a little less up to date than the seed sites.You can still leaf through older versions of the World Drug Report.United Nations Treaties on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances: century's worth of treaties reaching back to the International Opium Convention. You'll find texts for the three most influential treaties here: Drugs and Substances Act:*/doc/{t30376}?Act C-38, passed by Parliament in 1996. Click here for the list of banned substances.Addiction Research Foundation page for the well-respected institute based in Toronto.Office of Alcohol, Drugs and Dependency Issues: series of publications outlining Canada's drug policies and strategies. You'll need a PDF reader for some of the longer documents.Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network: impassioned argument for changing Canada's drug policy.RCMP's chief drug enforcement agency.Busted: America's War on Marijuana: large, level-headed PBS special.Jonathon Gatehouse and Mark Stevensonwith files from Campbell Clark and Graeme HamiltonPublished: Monday, May 15, 2000Copyright  Southam Inc. 
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