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Pot Use Not A High Point For Leaders


420 Staff
The fire of the provincial election campaign briefly subsided into smoke Thursday, as party leaders recounted their own experiences -- or lack of experience -- with marijuana.

The issue arose when a reporter at Saskatchewan Party Leader Brad Wall's press conference on social policy asked his opinion of the Saskatchewan Marijuana Party's call for legalization of marijuana.

Wall said his party didn't agree with legalization. He was then was asked whether he had ever smoked marijuana.

After a pregnant pause, Wall's answer was "yes," which was also his response on whether he had inhaled.

"I'm going to have to now phone my mom and make sure I tell her how I had answered that question before you go to air," he joked.

Wall said his use of marijuana was "infrequent" when he attended university and "it didn't really do anything for me, luckily, because for some it does lead to other things."

Wall ended up being the token toker among the leaders of the three main parties competing in the Nov. 7 election.

NDP Leader Lorne Calvert said he never used marijuana, although he jokingly acknowledged he might have incidentally inhaled during his early 1970's university days.

"To be fair, when I was first a student at the University of Saskatchewan, I think a fair number of my colleagues did, and indeed wandering the hallways I suppose just secondhand . . . but not on a personal basis," he said to laughter from NDP supporters at the Saskatoon Nutana campaign office.

Liberal Leader David Karwacki said he had never smoked marijuana.

"I just never hung around with people that got into any of that kind of stuff. So, no it just really wasn't in the circles that I was around," he said in a telephone interview.

Both Karwacki and Calvert said they did not think past marijuana use by a political leader was an issue at all anymore, a point reinforced by University of Regina political scientist Ken Rasmussen.

Politicians today can be more honest about their past experience with marijuana and not suffer as a consequence, said Rasmussen, who noted the issue is still a little overblown.

"But ( Brad Wall ) probably did the smart thing in admitting it because there's probably some people ( who were ) there smoking with him."

"He looks groovy and youthful now. He'll get the young vote," quipped Rasmussen of Wall's admission.

Bill Clinton attracted derision when he said he had smoked marijuana, but didn't inhale. His comments didn't sink his successful 1992 campaign to become U.S. president.

The Saskatchewan Marijuana Party is running five candidates in the provincial election on a platform calling for an end to the "prohibition" of marijuana.

Legalization of pot would require the federal government to change the Criminal Code, but party leader Nathan Holowaty said a provincial government could impact the enforcement of current laws through its funding of police and prosecutors.

Holowaty said he wasn't surprised Wall had tried marijuana but said he seems hypocritical for opposing legalization.

Wall said he opposed legalization of marijuana because he believes pot does serve as a gateway to harder drugs and because there is no adequate roadside test to catch drivers impaired by marijuana use.

Calvert pointed out legalization or decriminalization of pot would be the responsibility of the national government, but said he did not favour either.

Karwacki said he does not back legalization but supports the decriminalization of marijuana, saying it makes no sense for young people to go to jail and have criminal records for small possession offences.

Source: Regina Leader-Post (CN SN)
Copyright: 2007 The Leader-Post Ltd.
Contact: letters@leaderpost.canwest.com
Website: canada.com
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