N.L. MP admits using pot

Scott Simms favours legalization; calls for mature debate

Andrea Gunn agunn@live.ca
Published on September 6, 2013
Scott Simms.
— Submitted photo

National debate in the past few weeks has gone up in smoke as the legalization of marijuana issue has resurfaced again with a vengeance.

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police issued a news release last month in favour of ticketing, rather than prosecuting, people for possessing small amounts of pot — a stance echoed by Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Chief Robert 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 jumped into the pot de­bate.

The federal government has said it is considering the recommendation of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police while simultaneously accusing Trudeau of promoting drug use to children by admitting he has smoked the stuff.

When asked whether he’d ever smoked weed, Bonavista-Gander-Grand Falls-Windsor Liberal MP Scott Simms didn’t hesitate to reply.

“Yes, I’ve done it, and guess what? I inhaled, too,” Simms said, in a nod to former U.S. president Bill Clinton’s admission that he had smoked pot, but “never inhaled.”

When asked if he had smoked as a sitting MP, 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 isn’t the first time Simms has been open about breaking the law. In February 2011 he was part of a protest against snowmobile laws that involved illegally riding across Terra Nova Park, a prohibited area.

Simms said he has issues with current pot laws, but he has no plans to spark up a joint on Parliament Hill in protest. He did say, however, he thinks it’s time for a mature debate about Canada’s pot laws.

Like his colleague Justin Trudeau, Simms said he’s in favour of 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.

He doesn’t buy the argument that legalization will make the drug more accessible. Instead, he thinks implementing strict regulations on the sale of marijuana, much the same as for tobacco and alcohol, 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 offence. 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 to 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 the Conservatives’ outraged response to Trudeau’s admission to toking 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 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 it’s 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.”

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