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Senators admit trying cannabis in distant past

By Hempology | September 11, 2002

But authors of controversial drug report say they are not advocating marijuana use

From the Globe And Mail, September 6th, 2002

By Kim Lunman, Ottawa

Edmonton Senator Tommy Banks inhaled marijuana more than 40 years ago, but he wasn’t very high
on the experience.

“Oh, sure,” said the 65-year-old pianist and Liberal senator from Edmonton. “It was in 1957
or 1958 and I was playing in a concert in Seattle and I tried it, but I didn’t like it.

“And I didn’t exhale,” he added. “But I’m constantly around people who use it. And they’re not
musicians, by the way. It’s mostly the accountants any lawyers.”

At least two of the nine members of the Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs, which has
unaminously recommended that Canada legalize marijuana, admit to taking a toke.

The committee chairman, Progressive Conservative Senator Pierre-Claude Nolin, 51, has
admitted on the record that he once inhaled hashish. But the Quebec lawyer said he never tried
it again.

“I once in my life smoked hashish when I was in junior college,” Mr. Nolin said in 1996.
“I don’t know why I didn’t follow up on that. Maybe it was the cost.”

The Senate committee members who wrote the controversial report that recommends making it legal
for anyone aged 16 and older to smoke marijuana hardly fit the image of cannabis champions.

Nearly half the committee from Canada’s chamber of sober second thought are senior citizens.
Progressive Conservative Senator Eileen Rossiter is the oldest at 73. The group includes
Liberals and Conservatives, former business executives and academics.

“I think we need to examine serious public concerns, and one of them is the use of cannabis,”
said Sharon Carstairs, a Liberal senator from Manitoba and government leader of the Senate.

The 60-year-old former highschool teacher said she has never tried marijuana, “not because I
thought it was a dreadful thing, but because I have asthma.”

The Senate’s report, issued this week, has spared national debate about Canada’s marijuana laws
and drawn criticism from police groups and the United States. Among other things, the report
calls for a national drug policy and amnsesty for 600,000 Canadians convicted of marijuana

Mr. Banks said the notion that senators are a bunch of old fogeys out of touch with modern-day
problems is absurd.

“People have the wrong stereotypes of senators,” he said. “This is a highly contentious
issue. We’re not marijuana activists. We’re looking at the facts and life the way it is.
We’re giving people criminal records for having a joint in their pockets. It’s patently

Justice Minister Martin Cauchon said yesterday he will introduce drug-law reforms early next
year after studying the Senate report and a House of Commons committee. But it remains
doubtful that Canada will legalize cannabis.

“At this point in time, the notion of legalizing marijuana is not possible from an international
point of view,” he told reporters in Ottawa.

Mr. Cauchon said he is considering decriminalizing marijuana possession by removing it from
the Criminal Code and making it an offence punishable by fine instead of a criminal record.

Liberal MP Paddy Tornsey, chair of the House of Commons committee studying non-medical use
of drugs, could not say what recommendations will be made when the report is released in

The senators argue that it is time to re-evaluate Canada’s methods of dealing with drug use
because hundreds of thousands of Canadians continue to use marijuana and hash illegally. They
say they want a modern model that stresses education, prevention and treatment.

“There is no thought behind this report other than drugs are bad,” Mr. Banks said. “No one
should ever be encouraged to use drugs.”

Canadian Alliance leader Stephen Harper called yesterday for Senate reform, describing the
report’s recommendations as “radical” because they are “almost advocating the use of marijuana.”
An asthma sufferer, he said he has never smoked marijuana or anything else.

With a report from Jane Taber in Barrie, Ont.

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