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Candidates Talk Pot At PDHS Debate

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
Many of those at one of the best-attended all-candidates debates of this election were too young to vote, but that didn't keep teens at Paris District High School from applauding, whooping and cheering on the candidates.

The debate -attended by a large group of Grade 12 students -was a tightly run event that allowed the candidates just a minute at a time to answer questions or stump for their campaign platform.

The kids were supportive to all the candidates, politely listening for the most part and applauding each statement.

But they came alive when the discussion turned to legalizing marijuana and the cost of postsecondary education.

"Grow some weed!" urged independent candidate Leslie Bory to some cheers. "Devalue it, make it legal and organized crime loses a huge income."

But NDP candidate Marc Laferriere -the youngest candidate on the tour - -offered a sobering caveat to the students.

While the New Democratic Party believes in lifting the prohibition on marijuana, Laferriere said, he put on his social worker hat for a few moments.

"When teens do marijuana, we know the incidence of schizophrenia and mental health problems rise because their brains are still forming, so I suggest you like our policies when you're 21 or older," said Laferriere.

Nora Fueten of the Green Party said that there's money to be made for the government that makes growing pot a part of business.

"Take control of production and tax it," Fueten said, adding that there has to be a recognition of the dangers of the product. "Still, we'll do better if we control who grows it and buys it."

While MP Phil McCole-man said the Conservatives are against the idea of legalizing pot, the party wants to ensure those who have a genuine need for medical marijuana can get it.

"It would be good to have a private member's bill so the entire country could weigh in on this," McColeman added.

Liberal Lloyd St. Amand said his party isn't calling for either harsher penalties or mandatory minimum sentences for those caught with it.

St. Amand got the students' attention with his party's promise to help those going on to higher education.

"A Liberal government will give you $1,000 a year for up to four years to assist in tuition and if you're in a low-income family, it's $1,500 a year. If you get the grades you get to go," St. Amand said.

Other candidates called for universal access to higher education, lengthening the time students have to pay off their loans and making university free to those with high grades who are going into certain needed professions.

Other topics hit on included health care, the controversial military fighter jets, protecting the environment and the reduction of the national debt.

The Green Party -which swept the high school's last "Student Vote" election -got high marks from some in the audience for Fueten's ability to take points from various party platforms and work them into her own plans.

"I think ( Fueten ) got to the point," said student Paige Fleetwood after the debate. "But I also liked Marc because he addressed the psychological issues of marijuana and I think he takes on a lot in his work but he gets a lot done."

"This wasn't enough time to give us a lot of information," said her friend, Josephine Harley, "but it's nice to get a feel for the candidates and what they represent."

Neither of the girls are eligible to vote, however.

It's the same situation for the debate's moderator, Greg Stulen, whose birthday is eight days shy of election day.

"People were saying they don't know what's going on so that's why we organized this."

Stulen said the student vote will take place again this year with the results released on the evening of May 2, the same time as the regular election results come in.

"Last time the Green Party took it by storm and this year I expect it will be either Green or NDP. The Greens have what ( students ) like and Mr. Laferriere did great in the debate."

Teacher Gregory Csont, who helped organize the event, said students of voting age were approaching him and asking who they should vote for.

"It's not up to me to decide that," Csont said, "so we decided to sponsor this. Hopefully the kids will seek out more information.

NewsHawk: Jim Behr: 420 MAGAZINE
Source: Expositor, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2011 Sun Media
Contact: Brantford Expositor - Ontario, CA
Website: Brantford Expositor
Author: Susan Gamble
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