Ontario Conservative candidate Tim Hudak thinks pot smokers are criminals and wants to see them punished. He’s also admitted to smoking pot. Which means…
This week, Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak was unveiling his proposal to create an absolutely useless grow-op registry when he was asked if he’d ever smoked dope. Of course he has, and he said so. That became the news.
Almost right away, the people I follow on Twitter and whatnot were all like, “why does anyone still care if a politician has smoked a bit of pot. Haven’t we all? Yawn.”
The answer to why we should still care is in Maclean’s this week, in a story about our spending on crime and our crime rates (that’s not yet online):
Cannabis arrests jumped 13 per cent in 2010 to 75,126. Of those, almost 57,000 were for simple possession, a 14 per cent jump from the year before. (The statistics reflect cases where the arrest was the most serious charge a person faced, not the thousands more where a pot charge was tacked onto a string of more serious crimes.)
It’s tricky for me to read precisely the accompanying provincial chart, but it appears that in 2010, between 17,000 and 18,000 Ontarians were arrested for simple pot possession, and somewhere around 12,000 of those were charged by the Crown.
The Maclean’s story details one particular case of an Alberta medical marijuana user, a mother of four, who was charged with trafficking for giving a few joints worth of pot to a friend. Under new mandatory sentencing guidelines the federal Conservative government is bringing forth, an editorial in the same issue points out, she would face a year in jail, minimum (instead of the six-month suspended sentence she got).
So, to recap, thousands of Ontarians and tens of thousands of Canadians are convicted every year of doing the exact same thing Hudak has admitted to doing. They serve jail time or pay fines, and for the rest of their lives are unable to cross national borders and stigmatized as convicted criminals. Clearly, Hudak must think this is an injustice that should be corrected, right?
Wrong. Hudak is not in favour of decriminalizing marijuana possession. As the Globe says, “Despite Mr. Hudak’s own extra-curricular pursuits during his youth, he said he supports the status quo that makes it a criminal offence to possess small amounts of marijuana.”
It follows that Hudak must think that if our justice system had been working properly in his youth, he should have been caught, arrested and convicted, right? He should have spent time in jail, right? In a just Ontario, by his own logic, he would be an ex-con, in other words, a reformed criminal, sure, but a convicted criminal nonetheless. Assuming he’s not a hypocrite, he must want us to apply the stigma we apply to convicted criminals to him. Sure, he did not benefit from the hardening experience of sharing a jail cell with others of his kind and the reformative powers of our corrections system, but he’s still the real deal, right? He has that history as a menace to society—he’s the first to admit it.
So perhaps when he’s travelling, concerned citizens should alert border authorities to the fact they’re dealing with a known drug offender. And perhaps people in his workplace and neighbourhood should be alerted to the fact that they have an admitted criminal in their midst. Perhaps voters should weigh the fact that the man who wants to be premier has an acknowledged criminal background. After all, that’s the standard Hudak wants applied to other reefer freaks of his ilk.
It would be to ungenerous to accuse Hudak of the alternative logic here: what kind of thundering hypocrite would think that one law should apply to him and another to those like him who were unlucky enough to be caught?
So: “Admitted felon Tim Hudak.” “Former criminal Tim Hudak.” “Acknowledged drug offender Tim Hudak.” Shall we update our style guides?
Or shall we, instead, update our laws?