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Here are the MPs who said they’d use cannabis now that it’s legal — and the ones who won’t

Here are the MPs who said they’d use cannabis now that it’s legal — and the ones who won’t
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Recreational cannabis is now legal in Canada, but Members of Parliament are largely hesitant to talk about the drug — at least as it relates to their own lives.

From a group of 52 federal politicians who responded to a National Post survey about their personal cannabis habits, just 12 said they have used cannabis before and only two intend to consume it in private after it is legalized. None would ever use it in public, except for one MP who’d be open to using it in a laidback setting, such as a concert.

Over the past two weeks, the Post contacted the offices of all 334 sitting MPs and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who does not currently hold a seat in the House of Commons, to inquire about their experience with the substance. In addition to the 52 respondents, 42 declined to answer questions. A further 241, constituting almost three-quarters of the House, did not respond to repeated messages seeking comment.

In a country where nearly 50 per cent of people aged 25-64 told Statistics Canada in 2012 that they’d used cannabis in their lifetime, the results suggest our elected representatives are disproportionately unlikely to have indulged — or that they’re unwilling to share their experiences with cannabis for fear of backlash at the ballot box.

“If you look at it from a politician’s standpoint, what’s the good answer here? ‘As soon as it’s legal, I’m going to toke up’?” said John McKay, a Liberal MP in Toronto. “I don’t think that’s really a winning political strategy.”

Though he supports legalization, McKay, 70, counts himself among the legislators who have never consumed pot in any form and say they won’t do so in the future. He said his abstinence is the product of being raised in a Christian household, where the prevailing attitude “was that you did not imbibe impurities into your body,” be it alcohol, cigarettes or drugs.

Several other MPs cited various reasons to explain why they won’t partake in recreational use. Navdeep Bains, Justin Trudeau’s innovation minister, doesn’t smoke or drink any intoxicant. Robert Sopuck’s office noted that the Conservative from Manitoba has asthma. Four MPs — one Liberal, one Conservative, one NDP MP and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May — said they’d only consider consuming cannabis to treat a possible future medical condition.

Among the 12 MPs who said they have ingested cannabis, six, including Trudeau, qualified their use by adding that it occurred a long time ago.

Conservative MP Bruce Stanton, 60, said his experimentation was limited to “a couple of drags of one joint” as a university student in the 1970s. The same goes for Minister of Transport Marc Garneau, 69, who tried it “a couple of times” in university. Liberal MP Wayne Easter, 69, consumed cannabis once in the ‘70s, as Conservative Larry Miller, 62, did on a few occasions. Joel Godin, a 53-year-old Conservative from Quebec, said he used the drug fewer than 10 times in high school and wouldn’t want his two teenaged children — or any young person — to try it before age 25, when their brain is fully developed.

Liberal MPs Rodger Cuzner (of Cape-Breton, N.S.) and Nathaniel Erskine-Smith (of Toronto’s Beaches neighbourhood) were the only past users to say they plan to consume cannabis in private after legalization. Erskine-Smith, a first-term MP who has called on his party to decriminalize the possession and consumption of all drugs, said he might also use cannabis out in the open at concerts, where he thinks it should be seen as acceptable for a responsible adult to forgo a pint of beer in favour of a vaporizer.

Erskine-Smith, 34, said his constituents haven’t slammed him for proclaiming that he uses pot because he’s sensible about his intake: he doesn’t work or drive high, for instance. Some politicians might balk at using cannabis or disclosing that use out of concern it could alienate voters, he added, but he believes those worries will begin to wane in the first years of legalization.

“I think if you asked the same question of MPs five years from now, they will laugh and think, ‘Who cares?’ and ‘Why are you asking me this, because it’s such an innocuous question?’” Erskine-Smith said.

“The more we as politicians actually talk about this in an evidence-based way — we’re open about responsible use and we focus our conversation toward responsible use — I think the better off society will be.”

A significant number of responses to the survey (22 of 52) came from Conservative MPs, who voted as a bloc against the Cannabis Act during the bill’s final reading in the House. A couple of them replied to the Post’s questions with firm denunciations of the drug. Steven Blaney, a Quebec MP who was minister of public safety under Stephen Harper, said he’s “convinced I did not miss out on anything, but avoided many problems” by never consuming it. Alberta MP Jim Eglinski said he witnessed first-hand “the problems” that arise from cannabis use during his previous 35-year career as an RCMP officer.

Maxime Bernier, who defected from the Conservatives to form his own party, has consumed it in the past, but won’t again. In the same boat as Bernier is Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, who didn’t respond to the survey by press time but said on a Radio-Canada talk show in May that he smoked cannabis “when I was young.” Singh, leader of the NDP, said he has never and won’t ever use cannabis.

Bill Blair, the Liberals’ point person on legalization, doesn’t plan to personally take advantage of his government’s new law. Back in June, that he has never consumed cannabis because he didn’t want to disappoint his policeman father. A spokesperson for Blair confirmed on Tuesday that he isn’t going to engage in recreational use.

“But for adults who choose to consume cannabis,” the spokesperson continued, “a quality controlled and regulated product will now be available to them.”

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Here’s a breakdown of how every MP responded to our questions on personal cannabis use. You can find your MP by searching for their name or riding.
Read more on National Post
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