The High Times Interview: Canadian Senator Larry Campbell

Medical cannabis has been legal in Canada for over 10 years, and there’s has been an increasing push for recreational cannabis and institutional research on the plant. Recently, High Times interviewed Canadian Senator Larry W. Campbell on the topic and also spoke with him about the country’s history with cannabis.

In 1969 Campbell started working for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and later joined their drug squad in 1973. In 1981 he established Vancouver’s first District Coroner’s Office and became Chief Coroner for British Columbia in 1996. In 2002 he was elected Mayor of Vancouver under the banner of the Coalition for Progressive Electors (COPE). As Mayor he created North America’s first legal safe injection site, as part of the Four Pillars approach to ending drug abuse. In 2005 he was summoned to the senate where he continues to work on issues regarding drug policy, mental health and the aboriginals.

HT: What are the prospects for legalization in Canada?

LC: I believe the prospects for legalization are good depending on the next election. I mean right now clearly with the conservative government it’s not even on the table but with the liberal government and the NDP (National Democratic Party) government it ranges from decriminalization to legalization for the liberals.

HT: What are your personal feelings about the plant?

LC: My personal feeling is that, I believe that it’s probably the aspirin of this generation. I think that marijuana is probably going to be a miracle drug. We haven’t been able to study it because it’s illegal but I believe that a number of compounds in it and just the stuff that we’ve seen anecdotally from the medical use around the world leads me to believe that it has huge potential. What’s the downside of it? I really don’t know. It’s certainly safer than alcohol and tobacco; I wouldn’t want you driving while you’re using it, but then I don’t want you driving when you’re using alcohol. Certainly from a medical/physical standpoint, there’s no harm to it!

HT: Do you think recreational cannabis harms the fabric of society?

LC: No, but I also don’t believe that it should be used by young people; I don’t think it should be used by people under the age of 18, I also recognize that that’s probably an Alice-in-Wonderland-wish. I believe that, like alcohol, when you’re growing up your body and your brain are going through changes and you shouldn’t be using anything that could possibly affect that. But harm the fabric of society? I don’t think so. I mean I’m the person of the 60’s; all of my cohorts have probably stopped; I mean I was an RCMP officer, I didn’t participate but I certainly know lots of my friends did and they’re successful, leading good lives, families, the whole nine yards. It’s not a moral issue, let me put it that way.

HT: What’s the primary reason for legalization in Canada? The Economy? Medicinal value?

LC: We have jails all over the place full of nonviolent people who are in there because of using a plant substance, it’s ridiculous. My primary reason is that people should not have a criminal record for smoking marijuana, that’s my first one. My biggest interest is the medicinal end of it, but I also recognize as a politician that taxes are important so, let’s face it, governments are always looking for new ways of raising money, this is an entirely new source and obviously looking at those places where it has been legalized it is a significant source of tax revenue that, from my point of view, should go straight into healthcare, not into general revenue, into healthcare.

HT: What’s you personal history with the cannabis plant?

LC: I’ve been exposed to it because I live in British Columbia, it’s one of the premier places in the world. I was exposed to it when I was in RCMP, I was also a coroner; drugs are simply just a part of life. And marijuana in particular, I was always amazed that the penalty for using what is essentially an innocuous substance, and I know a lot of people who use marijuana. …Let’s just say it has been in my later life that I did partake but I don’t see anything particularly wrong with it in a social circumstance.

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