Liberal MP admits to using marijuana, comes out in favour of legalization
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One might say the national debate over the past number of weeks has gone up in smoke – the marijuana issue has resurfaced again, and this time, with a vengeance. The Canadian Association of Police Chiefs issued a release last month in favour of ticketing for possession of small amounts of pot – a stance echoed by the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary's Police Chief Bob Johnston.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau also made headlines last month when he admitted he has not only used marijuana but has used it while he was a sitting member of parliament. Since then, a number of other politicians have opened up about their take on the pot debate, and even their own use. The Harper Government has come out saying they are seriously looking at the recommendation made by the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs while simultaneously condemning Trudeau for promoting drug use to children by admitting he has smoked the stuff.
When posed the question, Bonavista-Gander-Grand Falls-Windsor Liberal MP Scott Simms didn't hesitate in admitting he has smoked marijuana.
“Yes, I've done it, and guess what? I inhaled too,” Simms said (making reference to the Bill Clinton admission that he had smoked but “never inhaled.”)
When asked if he had smoked as a sitting member of parliament, however, Simms said he had no comment.
“I've never performed my job high or drunk, as for outside of my job, that's for me,” Simms said. “I didn't get into office personally to talk about my Friday nights with friends and what exactly I do.”
This wouldn't have been the first time Simms has been open about breaking the law, in February of 2011 he was part of a protest against snowmobile laws that involved illegally riding across Terra Nova National Park, a prohibited area.
Simms said though he has issues with current pot laws, he has no plans to light up a joint on Parliament Hill in protest. He did say, however, he thinks it's time for mature debate about the country's pot laws. Like his colleague Trudeau, Simms said he's in favour of legalization and regulation, not decriminalization of pot.
“It's not about putting marijuana on every street corner and that everybody can sign up to sell it, that's actually what's happening right now. When it's unregulated, people can sell it to anybody,” Simms said.
Simms said he doesn't buy the argument that legalization will make the drug more accessible, and said he thinks putting up strict regulations around the sale of marijuana much the same as the tobacco and alcohol industries would be the way to go.
“The majority of Canadians want decriminalization or legalization, one or the other, now the police are saying they want a ticketable offense. There are, I think, nine states that are formalizing the legalization of marijuana in the United States,” Simms said. “Marijuana is everywhere, and we need have a mature conversation about this to make sure that we keep it out of the hands of kids...and to keep it (out of the hands) of criminals.”
Simms said he takes issue with the Government's response to Trudeau's admission to toking, and said it detracts from the quality of the debate.
“When Stephen Harper says Justin Trudeau is promoting kids to smoke pot it makes me very angry,” said Simms. “Last year (Harper) had a photo op where he was in a tavern drinking a beer, and he admitted he likes his occasional beer, is that promoting beer to kids? I think that's a far fetched thing to say, why is he saying this about marijuana? This is an example of where the Conservatives don't want to engage in a mature conversation.”
Unlike other issues Simms' constituents might discuss with him, he said people are much more reluctant to talk about marijuana legalization.
“It's easy for people to voice their concern against marijuana use like the legalization or the regulation of marijuana but its not so easy when you're in favour of that because it is illegal,” he said. “But if someone calls my office to voice their opinion, they can call me anonymously and I will never tell anyone where I got the call from...I would love to hear people's opinions.”