Skip to main content
Welcome to
super saver spring
offer ends april 20
save over $140
save over 85%
$0.99
per week for 24 weeks
Welcome to
super saver spring
$0.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Prime Minister Stephen Harper answers questions about marijuana smoking at an event in Toronto on Aug. 29, 2013.

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

It only seems sudden, as immense social change often does. The ground is shifting on the prosecution of marijuana possession. It has shifted under no less than the stolid feet of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who, when asked last week by a reporter if he has smoked marijuana, replied, "Do I seem like I smoke marijuana?" Mr. Harper says he is giving careful consideration to a sensible proposal from the Canadian Chiefs of Police that would allow police to give tickets for marijuana possession.

Separately, the United States, home of the perpetual war on drugs, has announced that the two states whose residents voted last year to legalize marijuana may do so without being challenged by the federal government. Those states, Colorado and Washington, plus 18 others that have approved marijuana for medical use, will still need to make sure the drug isn't sold to minors, that revenues don't end up in the hands of gangs or cartels, that drugged driving will be prevented and that marijuana will not be grown on public lands.

As the U.S. justice department said in a memo to those 20 states, it still holds the opinion that marijuana is a dangerous drug and the illegal distribution of it is a serious crime, but it also says that prosecutorial resources should be used where most needed. It's a good position for Mr. Harper to take. Canada prosecutes 50,000 people a year for marijuana possession and spends hundreds of millions of dollars doing so. Moreover, as the Canadian police chiefs say, those prosecutions may saddle people with criminal records limiting their job or travel prospects.

Story continues below advertisement

The shifting ground shows why we really don't need to know whether Mr. Harper, Justin Trudeau or any other politician has smoked dope. That discussion is decades out of date, and besides, most politicians won't challenge a taboo. Until Mr. Harper's comment on the police chiefs' idea, it was no more possible for a federal Conservative to speak candidly about pot use than it would have been for Mr. Trudeau to look unworldly in his socially enlightened set by saying he had never done so. It's all about as believable as when Bill Clinton said he didn't inhale.

The only answer we thoroughly enjoyed was the one from a laughing Toronto Mayor Rob Ford – "I've smoked a lot of it." It was an authentic moment, finally, that spoke volumes about where the public stands on this drug.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies