Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday May 11, 2016
Jean Chretien says criminal records for pot possession ‘completely unacceptable’
Jean Chrétien says politicians have to adjust to changing times, as his own views on marijuana, capital punishment and other contentious issues evolved after he was first elected in the early 1960s.
Whether it’s pot smoking, abortion, gay marriage or the death penalty, the former prime minister says he’s tried to reflect the spirit of the times — even if his changing politics put him in conflict with his conservative upbringing in a large, Roman Catholic family in rural Quebec.
“What were certain values 50 years ago, are not the same today. We have to live with that. It’s not always easy,” he said.
When asked Monday about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to legalize the sale of marijuana, Chrétien said he is in favour of decriminalization.
“What is completely unacceptable, in my judgment, is a young man smoking marijuana will have a criminal record for the rest of his life, (and) he can’t cross the border — come on,” Chrétien said after a ceremony marking the official opening of a public policy think-tank at Dalhousie University in Halifax.
“It is the modern thing to do … You have to adjust to the new life.”
When Chrétien was prime minister, his government tried in 2003 to pass a law decriminalizing simple possession of small amounts of marijuana, but the bill died when Parliament was prorogued.
Earlier this year, Liberal MP Bill Blair, a former Toronto police chief, said Criminal Code provisions on marijuana must be upheld until legalization is in place.
Blair, parliamentary secretary to the justice minister, is the Trudeau government’s point man on the issue.
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has said the government should decriminalize marijuana right away.
“I’m glad Mr. Chrétien agrees with us, that would be my comment,” NDP justice critic Murray Rankin said Monday.
Chrétien, 82, said he has never smoked cigarettes and he’s never tried pot.
“I don’t know what it is and I never tasted that,” he said. “I don’t know what is the effect.” (Source: CBC News)