Marijuana has been a bit of a media buzzword in recent weeks, with public figures of all stripes from across the country in federal, provincial and municipal politics adding their own confessions to the deluge of admissions into personal pot-smoking histories.
Federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau was first in line, declaring he’d smoked a joint three years ago at a dinner party, while a sitting MP in the House of Commons.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, in his typical blunt, nonchalant fashion, likewise admitted publicly that he’d smoked pot, and “a lot” of it at that. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne also confessed she’d experimented with marijuana, albeit 35 years ago, and Nova Scotia premier Darrell Dexter stated he’d tried pot in the 1970s.
Not that it matters to any of them, though. It’s pure media fodder — the stuff that makes for catchy headlines, but not much of a story — except, of course, if you’re Trudeau, whose pot admission was the catalyst for all the subsequent media attention, and whose stance on legalizing marijuana is the quasi-totality of his official policy platform thus far.
To date, politicians cornered by the cannabis question, with the notable exceptions of Trudeau and the always-unapologetic Ford, have told the story in the same way.
They were young, and they experimented, but that’s ancient history. Now they’re adults and they’ve moved on. We should follow suit.
Valid statements, I suppose. Sure, it may have been 20 or 30 years ago, for all we know, and I would like to think these people’s mandates are based on the current Fords, Wynnes, Dexters and Trudeaus rather than their more youthful counterparts.
Yet, to young people, there is a palpable irony in hearing the flurry of high-profile confessionals of late, considering the backdrop of drug-related education received at school based on the risks of substance abuse. There is all of a sudden a very public contradiction between the projected ruination caused by drugs such as marijuana, and the success achieved by the same elected officials who’ve lately confessed to having smoked them.
Hearing people like Wynne, Dexter, Trudeau and Ford, some of the country’s highest elected officials (pardon the pun), admitting to having at least experimented with marijuana, and in spite of this, having ended up in the offices they now hold, seriously throws young people for a loop. They turned out OK, and are today largely respected, accomplished individuals. Why wouldn’t we be just as successful if we chose to experiment in the same way during our youth?
Remember now, as hard as this may be to believe, most young people aren’t stupid. There are risks to marijuana use and, we, products of intensive drug awareness campaigns and a school system bent on driving kids away from drugs and alcohol, are well aware.
First, it’s a well-known fact that drug abuse and addiction can lead to irreparable damage. And second, marijuana is often considered a gateway drug, opening doors to many other more harmful, addictive substances. That much has been drummed into our skulls.
What’s more, it’s 2013 and the world is a different place than it was in the heydays of our elected officials (so far as we know). And we’re very much aware of the horror stories surrounding taking hard drugs. We know the consequences.
All the same, young people are still curious, and we’re still hell-bent on living our youth to the fullest.
We want to try new things, and if they seem to be within reason, supported by figures with high profiles in music, acting and now even the country’s political arena, we will.
More and more, harmless experimentation with marijuana is perceived as exactly that, and like the premiers, mayors and federal leaders before us have shown, it may very well be the truth.
Patrick Butler plans to begin the journalism program at Carleton University in Ontario this fall. He lives in Conception Bay South, and can be reached by email at