Not so long ago, Stephen Harper was Canada’s prime minister and he was warning us all that weed was “infinitely worse” than tobacco.
Harper, you’ll recall, favoured a tough-on-crime agenda that included mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug crimes—laws that were eventually struck down as unconstitutional. During his tenure, Health Canada also spent $7 million on anti-drug ads, including one that dubiously claimed cannabis use lowers the IQ of young people.
So it’s a tad ironic that one of the people by Harper’s side during his war on drugs—former finance minister Joe Oliver—is now singing the praises of medical weed.
Oliver, 77, is the latest former Conservative/narc/old white guy to cash in on legalization. But people have short memories, so we’ve put together a list to help keep track of Big Weed’s biggest hypocrites:
As noted above, Oliver was both finance minister and minister of natural resources under Harper. In a recent op-ed for the Toronto Sun, he announced that he’s chairman of PlantExt, “a private Israeli/Canadian company devoted to developing and commercializing cannabis extracts in the treatment of diseases.”
Oliver noted that it’s hard to come by solid cannabis research because “scientists in most countries were intimidated or legally prohibited from experimenting with the plant’s medical potential. So for decades progress did not match the promising research and preliminary clinical results. Then attitudes started to change.” Yes they did, no thanks to the government you were a part of for four years, Joe.
In addition to being Toronto’s former police chief, Fantino also served as veterans affairs minister under Harper. He compared legalizing weed to murder in 2004, telling the Toronto Sun “I guess we can legalize murder too and then we won't have a murder case. We can't go that way."
But now Fantino is executive chairman of Aleafia Total Health Network, a medical weed business that aims to connect patients with resources, including doctors and research.
He claims meeting with veterans who suffered from PTSD helped change his mind about the benefits of medical weed.
When grilled by the CBC’s Carol Off on the hypocrisy of his previous positions on weed and the fact that he now stands to make a lot of money from his cannabis-related business, Fantino said he was “addressing a different era at that time.”
He went on to claim that these days he is a “responsible, educated, informed citizen who's had the experience of knowing the benefits of medical cannabis for people who are suffering from ailments that are normally not well cared for by plying them with opiates.” If only he had done that research when he was actually in government.
Souccar, former RCMP deputy commissioner who spent decades on the force, is Fantino’s business partner. His current role is president and CEO of Aleafia Total Health Network.
According to his company’s website, Souccar’s past experience includes drugs and organized crime enforcement and helping the federal government come up with the new drug-impaired driving regulations.
Souccar told reporters it took being a part of the government’s weed legalization task force for him to realize that medical cannabis patients aren’t bullshitting.
"It was an opportunity I never had before, I was too busy enforcing the law. It brought about a huge change in me," he said. After decades of enforcing prohibition, we’re glad he finally came to a more reasoned position. We are sure the prospect of making money off legalization has nothing to do with it.
Ogden is former head of the RCMP’s drug squad whose new job is president of National Access Cannabis—another referral service to help people get medical weed prescriptions. He told Global News that his old gig helped prep him to work in medical weed.
“We did see a number of groups across the country that were very, very involved in the cannabis industry and they generated a lot of revenue,” he said. Guess he wanted a piece.
As former Toronto police chief, Bill Blair oversaw a force that disproportionately charged black people with pot possession. A decade of data obtained by the Toronto Star showed that black people with clean records are three times as likely to get charged with low-level possession (up to 30 grams) than white people with clean records, even though there is nothing to suggest a difference in pot use between the two groups.
Blair retired in 2015, after 10 years as chief, and is now a Liberal MP as well as the party’s point person for heading up weed legalization. While campaigning to be an MP, he criticized prohibition.
“If the only tool you got is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Frankly, we can do better than that.” In his absence, the Toronto police continue to hammer away.
The new leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives, who is now gunning to be premier, recently said he would support a free market for weed.
“I don't believe in the government sticking their hands in our lives all the time. I believe in letting the market dictate,” he said on CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning, adding he will consult with his caucus on the issue.
This strategy flies in the face of what Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals want to do, which is run a tightly-controlled legal weed monopoly via the LCBO. It’s highly possible that Ford is trying to make cannabis an election issue. But that’s also a bit hypocritical considering that he once said Justin Trudeau is not fit to lead Canada because he’s smoked a joint at some point in his life. The hypocrisy doubles when you consider that Ford himself is an alleged former hash dealer.
Heed, now a strategic consultant with licensed producer-hopeful National Green BioMed, is former BC Solicitor General and West Vancouver police chief. He was also head of Vancouver police’s drug squad. Despite having been a cop, Heed canned West Vancouver’s Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, hinting that even back then he wasn’t a full-blown prohibitionist.
Inkster is former commissioner of the RCMP. He was an independent director at Mettrum Health Corp., a licensed producer that was bought out by Canopy for $430 million last summer.
We’re putting Trudeau on this list because he admitted to VICE that he was “confident” weed charges against his brother Michel would be dropped due to his dad’s connections—but he still will not commit to pot amnesty for Canadians unfairly charged under prohibition.
If you’re not sufficiently annoyed, here’s a list of a bunch more people who made the switch from government to weed once it became profitable.
Follow Manisha Krishnan on Twitter.