OTTAWA — As the Liberal government prepares to table its marijuana legalization bill this week, several ministers walked out of cabinet Tuesday open to sharing their personal experiences with pot.
Four years ago, Justin Trudeau told The Huffington Post Canada that he had smoked a joint while he was the MP for Papineau. As he walked by journalists Tuesday, however, he declined to reveal whether he had repeated the experience as prime minister.
Transport Minister Marc Garneau speaks to reporters in the foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill on March 21, 2017. (Photo: Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)
His transport minister, Marc Garneau, candidly admitted that he had smoked pot when he was a student working on his Ph.D. Did it help him? “I don’t know!” he told reporters.
Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly acknowledged smoking marijuana — but before she was elected, she noted.
Treasury Board President Scott Brison said he had inhaled marijuana, but not recently. “It was a long time ago,” he said, noting it happened as an adult.
Brison said he hoped the government’s bill would make it more difficult for young Canadians to access cannabis. “Right now, the rate of usage of cannabis among young people in Canada is higher than it is in many other countries, so legalization and regulation will actually reduce access,” he said.
The government whip, Pablo Rodriguez, said he used pot a few times as a teenager but did not particularly enjoy the experience. He suggested young people should not follow his example — but if they did, to do so with moderation.
Heritage Minister Melanie Joly speaks in the House of Commons on April 6, 2017. (Photo: Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press)
Some ministers laughed off the questions from reporters. National Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, for example, walked by with huge smiles when they were asked about their personal pot use.
Andrew Leslie, the parliamentary secretary for Canada-U.S. relations, was coy about his experience. “I have not even inhaled it walking down a corridor for about 37 years,” he responded as he walked down a corridor in Parliament’s centre block.
Leslie, a former Canadian Forces’ general, declined to say if he had smoked pot before joining the army. “That was a long, long time ago,” he responded.
Other ministers, such as International Trade Minister François-Philippe Champagne and International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau, said they have never smoked marijuana.
"I’m boring, aren’t I? I’m sorry."
— International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau
“I’ve never taken drugs in my life,” Champagne said.
Bibeau added: “I’m boring, aren’t I? I’m sorry.”
Last year, then foreign affairs minister Stéphane Dion surprised reporters when he said that he couldn’t remember if he’d ever used marijuana. “I don’t remember. I was too loaded,” he joked.
The parliamentary secretary in charge of the pot file and former Toronto police chief, Bill Blair, said he has never experimented with drugs, including marijuana.
“I have concerns about the use of this drug and the effect it could have on any of our citizens,” Blair said. “We want to make sure that we restrict the access that children have to it because that’s where the greatest risk is, and for adults, we want to make sure that they can make healthy, safer and socially responsible choices.”
Former police chief Bill Blair is in charge of the pot file. (Photo: Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)
While the Liberals intend to table legislation this week, Blair acknowledged a number of issues still need to be negotiated with the provinces, such as whether federal funds will be provided to help train police officers and how to monitor plant limits for personal use.
“There’s going to be a very important discussion that will take place between the federal government, the provinces, territories and municipalities. And I will acknowledge we have a great deal of work to do.”
The Liberals intend to allow adults over the age of majority, which is as young as 18 in six provinces, to legally purchase marijuana. A federal task force recommended a personal possession limit of 30 grams.
Translation and files from Althia Raj