New Politics of Pot Emerging

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by Superjoint, Mar 20, 2002.

  1. By Rob Faulkner, The Hamilton Spectator
    Source: Hamilton Spectator

    Bob Dylan's chorus from 1966 -- "Everybody must get stoned" -- must have included two teens named Ernie Eves and Jim Flaherty. It turns out the aspiring Tory premiers did, indeed, inhale.
    Eves told The Canadian Press he toked at Argos games in his university days. Flaherty lit up a "couple of times" but said "I didn't like it." And a third candidate, renowned partier Chris Stockwell puffed while he was a student -- and in a nod to former U.S. president Bill Clinton, he joked, "I never exhaled."

    That three of the five candidates for the Tory leadership smoked pot is no shock, considering their teen years coincided with Dylan's infamous tune Rainy Day Women.

    That observers expect no political fallout hints at a new politics of pot.

    "The Conservative candidates pay a lot of attention to George W. Bush," said Henry Jacek, a political science professor at McMaster University.

    "They believe telling the truth makes you look spontaneous and candid ... in contrast to Bill Clinton who said he smoked and didn't inhale, which became a joke for eight years."

    And the Tory candidates -- minus pot-free Elizabeth Witmer and Tony Clement -- join a long line of reefer-puffing politicians. America saw Clinton, the U.S. Supreme Court's Clarence Thomas, Republican Newt Gingrich and former vice-president Al Gore admit to pot use. And in Canada, even right-wing Pentecostal politico Stockwell Day admits he indulged.

    Paul Rutherford, who teaches popular culture at the University of Toronto, says revelations of youthful pot use can turn a boring suit into a more colourful "person of their times."

    "There's an advantage to it because it says you were once a rebel. And for a Tory to say that is an interesting thing," Rutherford said.

    It fits a political style set when Clinton appeared in 1992 with his saxophone on Arsenio Hall, and discussed his pot use on MTV.

    "But I don't think you'd see a politician admitting they abused someone," Rutherford said. "Some may think that's rebellion -- but not the kind of rebellion you admit."

    There is still a darker side to the drug debate.

    Hamilton and Halton police in January grabbed about $3 million in equipment and plants from upscale, local homes in the countrywide Operation Green Sweep.

    The drug trade has always had links to organized crime.

    And even straight-laced Eves, 55, Flaherty 52, and Stockwell, 45, aren't in the Canadian majority. The Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse (CCSA), a federal information agency, says just 14 per cent of Canadians aged 45 to 54 have tried marijuana, compared to 23 per cent of the general population.

    "Other studies in the States have found that the people who use cannabis tend to be more outgoing, adventurous people," Richard Garlick of the CCSA said. "The fact that you would see risk-taking behaviour within the political area is not at all surprising."

    But Garlick says public opinion is still far ahead of legal opinion about pot smoking. A Léger Marketing poll last year found 47 per cent of Canadians supported legalization of marijuana. But the Tory race isn't about to alter our drug laws.

    "We hear about it all the time but it's not a hot political issue. People care more about bread-and-butter issues like the economy," Garlick said. "There doesn't seem to be enough urgency to deal with this issue now and the only urgency is coming from the civil libertarian side of the equation."

    Even Jacek, the political scientist, thinks pot will be forgotten -- and not because of short-term memory woes -- as the leadership race wraps up.

    "I don't think smoking pot gets you any votes, particularly among the Conservatives," Jacek said.

    "I think the big benefit is appearing to be candid and truthful -- that's far more important to a politician."

    Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
    Author: Rob Faulkner, The Hamilton Spectator
    Published: March 19, 2002
    Copyright: The Hamilton Spectator 2002

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  2. "I think the big benefit is appearing to be candid and truthful -- that's far more important to a politician."

    Exactly......."appearing" they ever really be "truthful"?


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