Cannabis Canada: Inside Rob Ford's Marijuana Admission

Mayor Rob Ford
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford told reporters this week about his marijuana use: ’I’ve smoked a lot of it.’

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford says he's "smoked" marijuana - "a lot" of it - but avoids the question regarding when exactly was the last time he toked.

In a CBC news clip posted Wednesday, a reporter mentioned that Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and new Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau had admitted to smoking marijuana, then asked Ford if he too had ever used the stuff.

"Oh yes," Ford replied.

"How long ago?" the reporter followed up.

Ignoring the question, Ford said with a big smile, "I've smoked a lot of it," and quickly left the room.

I'm guessing that the reason why Ford was more candid with the amount of cannabis he has smoked than with answering exactly when it was he had last smoked has something to do with the current legal debate around Justin Trudeau's pot-smoking admission (he says he last inhaled three years ago).

Canadian Justice Minister/Attorney General Peter Mackay responded to Trudeau's admission by saying, “But this admission of smoking marijuana, breaking the law, doing so knowingly while he was a member of Parliament, the politics of this are such that there’s an element of hypocrisy of having voted on the record to increase penalties around the same time that he was lighting up. So his credibility is a little up in smoke."

It's true Trudeau was a hypocrite. So was his father, former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Canadian cannabis activists hope Justin's current announcement that he's prepared to legalize marijuana if elected PM will make up for his past hypocrisy, but I'm not holding my breath.

In response to these statements from Mackay, University of Ottawa law professor Amir Attaran wrote to the Nova Scotia Barristers' Society asking that they investigate MacKay, a former provincial Crown prosecutor and, as the current Attorney General of Canada, the person charged with enforcing the rules of the land, for unprofessional conduct as a lawyer.

Attaran focuses on an interesting point of law: while it is illegal to possess marijuana, it's not illegal to have at one time smoked marijuana - or admitting to have at one time smoked marijuana. The legal passage cited bears repeating, as most of the media have missed this point entirely:

"MacKay’s statements are dishonest in that they do not reflect the true state of Canadian law. While possessing marijuana is, of course, a criminal offense under section 4(1) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, it is not 'against the law' or 'breaking the law' to have smoked or consumed marijuana. This is uncontroversial, and as stated by the courts (R. v. Beilard, [1986] 17 C.R.R. 375): 'It is trite law to point out that it is not an offense "to have smoked" marijuana but rather it is the current possession of the substance which is proscribed.'”

Maybe this is why Mayor Ford, who was arrested for possessing a joint in 1999, has no problem admitting to being a past user of cannabis, but dodges the question of whether or not he's a current user. The former is legal while the latter is not.

Ford played a similar game with his recent statements about another illegal drug when he stated, “I do not use crack cocaine, nor am I an addict of crack cocaine.” Notice he didn't say "I have never used crack cocaine." For all I know he could have used it last week, but considers himself a clean and sober non-crack-user after having come down from the last crack high. The next time a reporter asks Ford about his drug use, they should probably begin their question with "When was the last time you…?"

It reminds me of a joke Woody Harrelson made about admitting to smoking cannabis on the Late Show with David Letterman. "Well Dave, I don't smoke any more," Harrelson noted slyly, "and I don't smoke any less, either."

David Malmo-Levine

David Malmo-Levine

Also writes for and operates The Herb Museum in Vancouver, BC.