Former prime minister Jean Chretien says he’s never smoked marijuana, but that didn’t stop him from trying to decriminalize the drug when he was in office.
Chretien’s Liberal government tried in 2003 to pass a law decriminalizing possession of small amounts of cannabis, but the legislation was killed when Parliament was prorogued.
Fourteen years after leaving Parliament, Chretien says he supports new legislation, tabled last week by the Liberal government, that paves the way for recreational pot.
“For me, I never tasted it,” Chretien told CTV’s Power Play on Thursday. “But what was bothering me very much was some kids will do the mistake of using it, and they will have a criminal record, and they could not cross the border anymore to the United States. That was something that I could not accept, and I wanted to change it.”
Chretien once joked in a 2003 interview with the Winnipeg Free Press that he might try pot after he retired.
"Perhaps I will try it when it will no longer be criminal. I will have my money for my fine and a joint in the other hand," he jibed at the time.
Speaking with Power Play, the former prime minister says he has no interest in toking up once marijuana becomes legal.
“No, no, not at all,” he said.
The lengthy process, which includes laying out a framework for how pot can be grown, sold and regulated, is expected to be in place by July 2018.
Chretien also discussed U.S. President Donald Trump, whose recent criticisms of Canada’s dairy industry -- which he says is harming Wisconsin dairy farmers -- have caused politicians to defend the supply management system. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday that the system “works very well” and said he will engage in a “fact-based” conversation with the U.S. on trade.
“I was dealing in trade with the Americans a long time ago,” Chretien said, referring to negotiations with Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
“The power in the United States is not like here. Very often, all the legislation is controlled by the House or the Senate. And here in Canada, the prime minister is both the executive and the legislative (leader)…they don’t do that there.”
This balance of power sometimes meant that presidents could carry through with certain priorities.
“So it was very frustrating for everybody that, very often, the president could not do things. So if he cannot do a lot of things, he cannot undo a lot of things,” he said.
As for the future of the North America Free Trade Agreement, Chretien says that Trump’s hardline opposition stands in contrast with the majority of Republicans who supported it when it was passed.
“So when Trump talks against free trade, it’s not part of the philosophy of his party,” he said. “For 35 states, their biggest trading partner is Canada.”