That Justin Trudeau has dabbled with pot likely surprised few in Canada. However, his recent admission that he took his last puff just three years ago is provocative.
We're used to politicians saying they tried marijuana in their carefree youth. And used to them drastically playing down the amount they smoked – that is, if they actually inhaled at all. But these types of political confessions stopped being news a long time ago.
What's different about Mr. Trudeau's divulgence is his acknowledgment he did it just a few years ago, while an MP. And, not insignificantly, while the possession of marijuana was still a criminal offence in this country – and remains so. That is either politically brave or stupid. It is without question refreshingly honest.
It's doubtful Mr. Trudeau and his advisers would not have considered the potential fallout of his story about sharing a joint with friends at his Montreal home. (He also said he's only tried marijuana five or six times in his life, and has never done other hard drugs). They likely determined that those who might be offended by his revelation were probably disinclined to vote for him anyway.
They also likely decided that the vast majority of Canadians would probably shrug at the news. So he took a puff at a dinner party. It's a scene played out in living rooms and backyard patios among young professionals like Mr. Trudeau every day. Pot is the parlour drug of choice for many urbanites, and long has been. Many prefer its mellow effect to the toll of an evening of drinking.
In Vancouver, of course, you can't walk along a downtown street without encountering pot's pungent odour. I can assure you, Mr. Trudeau did not hurt himself on the West Coast with his frank disclosure. And certainly the young people who have been drawn to his political crusade aren't going to punish him. Rather, they will laud him for his candour.
The stigma that once existed around marijuana has mostly dissipated. Almost every week another group is calling for its legalization. Mr. Trudeau himself recently came out in support of it. Health professionals across the country have long pointed out it's time to legalize and regulate the sale of cannabis the way we do alcohol.
Even south of the border, where the war on drugs was lost a long time ago, some U.S. states have moved to legalize cannabis. So far, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has shown no interest in moving down this road. Even if Mr. Harper believed that heeding the many calls to decriminalize pot was the right thing to do, he likely couldn't do it. The Conservative base would never forgive him.
Consequently, this allows Mr. Trudeau to look more enlightened on the subject, more in tune with modern thinking. A vast majority of Canadians support decriminalizing marijuana because it makes sense. Why clog up an already overburdened court system with people nailed for having a bit of weed in their possession?
It will be intriguing to see what the Tories do with Mr. Trudeau's revelation. Will they make a big deal out of the fact that he was breaking the law when he lit up? This, by a man who purports to want to run the country! They had no qualms about making fun of Mr. Trudeau for being a drama teacher. Will they now propose his marijuana use confirms he's as big a flake as they've been suggesting?
Over the years we've learned that when it comes to trying to destroy political opponents, the Conservatives will do, and say, just about anything.
I would suggest, however, that going after Mr. Trudeau on this matter will not get the traction the Tories are seeking. If anything, it may just make Canada's governing party look dated, out of touch and even a little paranoid.