Julian Fantino, who once compared weed to murder, defends opening medical marijuana business

Wednesday November 15, 2017

The former Toronto police chief and politician who once compared legalizing weed to legalizing murder is defending his decision to open a company connecting patients with medical marijuana.

Julian Fantino, a former Ontario Provincial Police commissioner and Conservative veterans affairs minister, cut the ribbon for his new business Tuesday with his partner, former RCMP deputy commissioner Raf Souccar.

Aleafia Total Health Network bills itself as a company that will connect patients to the “most effective product” for them and will work with universities and producers to research medical applications of the drug.

Fantino, a longtime opponent of marijuana legalization, told the Toronto Sun in 2004 that legalization would not cut down on crime, adding: “I guess we can legalize murder too and then we won’t have a murder case. We can’t go that way.”

As It Happens host Carol Off spoke with Fantino about how he squares his new business and with his past activities. Here is part of that conversation.

Mr. Fantino, I’ll ask you a blunt question: Have you tried marijuana?

No, I never have.

Why do you think that it’s OK?

I suppose that I can rely very heavily on not only the experts … but more compelling than that has been the stories of real-life experiences by people who have been suffering multiple different ailments and who have been helped greatly by medically ordered cannabis.

And this was when you were minister of veteran affairs?

It did happen at that time when I was lobbied by various veterans groups to transition veterans from opioids,after which were being, I guess, quite easily prescribed … and how much better the response was when they went onto medical cannabis.

And yet you said in 2015, “I am completely opposed to legalization of marijuana.”

I was addressing a different era at that time.

That was less than two years ago. What was the different era then?

Now it’s being made a legal item and so therefore there’s no point in me arguing the issue. What I do think is important, though, is that if and when it becomes a legal commodity, that the concerns expressed by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the medical profession and others to ensure that there be proper education.

You also said fewer than two years ago … “This is simply wrong,” and this is a quote, “puts the health and safety of our children and communities at risk.”

You have to separate out the whole issue of legalization from what I’m involved in right now. I’m involved in the medical aspect that helps people greatly through the dispensing of medically prescribed marijuana cannabis.

People suffering from chronic pain, people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep deprivation, the post events form cancer treatment — these are the things we’re involved with right now. We’ll wait and see how the rest of it shakes out.

But this isn’t volunteer work you’re doing. This is a company that you will make money from. So how will you capitalize on the legalization of marijuana?

We’re not looking to capitalize on anything right now. We’re dealing with the medical aspect of cannabis. I’ve mentioned that a number of times.

As chief of police in Toronto, you were very strict about drugs. You put people in jail. There are young people who are in jail because of people like you. You don’t see any contradiction between your past life as chief of police …

Not at all. What I did in law enforcement, I ascribed and I followed my oath of office, the laws of the land, my duty and responsibility, I did it faithfully and accountably.

You’re making a huge mistake if you believe that I put everyone in jail that I came across that had marijuana. I gave all kinds of people all kinds of breaks.

So we’re talking about a different issue. We’re talking about me today, as a responsible, educated, informed citizen who’s had the experience of knowing the benefits of medical cannabis for people who are suffering from ailments that are normally not well cared for by plying them with opiates.

The freshly opened Aleafia total health clinic in Vaughan, Ont., where patients can be assessed and connected to medical marijuana. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

And yet you were part of a government that passed a law that put mandatory minimum sentences on people for having as few as six plants. People went to jail, went to prison with six-month sentences the courts had to give them, because of a law you passed even as you knew, according to what you’ve told us, that this was something of benefit to vets. 

I can tell you right now that we’re talking about medical cannabis.

If someone was growing plants for medical reasons when you passed Bill C-10, they would go to jail as well. … Is that not true, Mr. Fantino?

All I can tell you is that what we did was to help veterans and now we’re helping others who are benefitting greatly from the medical cannabis availability who are being taken off of opiates.

You said you saw that when you were minister of veterans affairs. You knew how much it helped people. Did you or did you not support the Harper government’s law, Bill C-10, that made mandatory minimum sentences for as few as six plants? The war on drugs, the Harper war on drugs — did you support it?

There was no Harper war on drugs.

OK, well then did you support the mandatory minimums …

There was no Harper war on drugs.

OK, I’m asking you a question: Did you support the mandatory minimum sentences for people for as few as six plants going to prison?​

I’m afraid I can’t answer that question wholly because there were more issues attached to that particular bill.

It was so controversial. There were people across the country, people…

I don’t want to have an argument with you about what you understand and what I’m doing. What I’m doing is I’m involved in helping people with my colleagues, who are reputable people.

prison-bars

Fantino was a cabinet minister when the Conservative government brought in mandatory minimum sentences for marijuana offences. (Shutterstock)

Can I put to you that you’ve had your change of heart since you saw a business opportunity for yourself?

We are involved with very ethical and honourable people, financed totally by family and friends, who believe, as we do, in the benefits of medical cannabis to help people suffering from various ailments and trying to lessen the dependency on opiates, which are a tragedy in this country.

But you do expect to make money from this?

There’s investors who have put their trust in us and we owe them a return if there is a return available.

You can frame it anyway you want, but you will never be able to take away my integrity with respect to what I’m doing now and what I’ve done in the past.

With files from CBC News. This has been edited for length and clarity. For more, listen to our interview with Julian Fantino.

Article source CBC Radio

Former police chief and Conservative cabinet minister Julian Fantino speaks about his company, Aleafia, which authorizes patients for medical marijuana use, during an interview in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, November 17, 2017. REUTERS/Canice Leung

It stinks to high heaven when top cops are shilling pot: James

Former Toronto police chief Julian Fantino once put people in jail for selling marijuana. Now he sings its praises.

If St. Paul, one of the most virulent and effective enemies of early Christians could pull off the greatest about face in history and become the religion’s most prolific proponent, then who am I to argue with former Toronto police chief Julian Fantino as a shill for the marijuana industry.

Fantino, the macho, no-nonsense, law-and-order tough guy from Vaughan stood at a podium in his city Tuesday singing the virtues of — pot.

Yes, he used to bust men and women, boys and girls — locked them up for smoking a joint or a spliff — ignoring the haze of vibe-inducing smoke and the good vibes of the “natural mystic flowing in the air,” riding the Rasta rhythms of Bob Marley or the raw rhetoric of Peter Tosh’s Legalize it. That was then.

Read more: Former Toronto police chief Julian Fantino heads marijuana company after change of heart

But Fantino did not mutate by himself; he has disciples.

Beside him was the former second in command of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Raf Souccar, who admitted busting “numerous . . . dozens” of people for marijuana over his 34 years with the Mounties.

And in case you didn’t get the odd, mind-bending irony of these former cops turned drugs promoters, Fantino spelled it out as he fronted for Aleafia, a self-styled “Canada’s first ‘patient-centric’ cannabis based health network” that launched its flagship clinic in Vaughan Tuesday.

“Our leadership team is comprised of Canada’s best thought leaders in law enforcement, government, research and innovation, which singularly positions Aleafia for long-term growth,” Fantino told reporters.

In other words, we are the new, respectable mob. We are going to kick butt and rake in the profits in this new, legal enterprise that has been scrubbed clean and made respectable. Yeah, yeah, we were wrong about this. Dope is actually a good alternative to opioids, which are killing our young people by the thousands across the land. We’ve seen the light — not to mention the cash.

Fantio is Aleafia’s executive chairman. Souccar is president and CEO. Toronto’s former fire chief William Stewart is a director. Former MP and minister of state Dr. Gary Goodyear is COO and vice-president of research.

Missing was ex-Toronto police chief Bill Blair — but he is busy working this from the inside as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s chief lieutenant, directed to deliver the legislation that will de-criminalize marijuana in Canada.

One wonders how many young men are in prison — introduced to the penal system as youths and never got out of that rut because they were busted for the horrible weed now turned wonder drug.

“I was too busy enforcing the law, I never had the opportunity to interact with the users,” Souccar offered, in comparison to his education as a member of Trudeau’s Marijuana Legalization Task Force.

No apologies, Fantino said Tuesday. He was upholding the law.

His “come to Jesus moment” — though the Jesus crowd would consider it a “come to Satan moment” — was when he was veteran affairs minister, Fantino said. He met too many veterans suffering from post traumatic sleep deprivation and chronic ailments who found relief from cannabis (they rarely say marijuana, or ganja; cannabis is more respectable).

“We are not in the marijuana business; we are in the health delivery system,” Fantino said, and, of course, medical marijuana has been legal for 20 years (though greatly restricted).

I have no beef with former cops and arbiters of our morality and lawmakers showing up years later promoting what was once considered forbidden. Happens all the time. I don’t drink or smoke or do a whole bunch of illicit stuff that are among the menu of fun times for mayors and MPs and, of course, cops and city councillors.

But it does get astonishing at times.

The war on drugs has done so much damage to the people and communities on the street level of the trade that it galls to see the facilitators of this fake war now saying, “Oops, we were wrong. No harm, no foul. Dope is actually a good alternative” to other drugs society allows.

Or, as Fantino said Tuesday, “In days gone by we had a certain attitude and perception of things.”

But you campaigned against legalization of marijuana when you ran for parliament? He was asked.

“I support the legalization, with conditions. We hope and trust the concerns will be addressed, and away we go.”

Away we go?

It’s never about the drug, or the banned substance, is it? Cause once we can sanitize it, legislate it, tax it, package it, and deal it then we suddenly gloss over the impacts.

Alcohol ruins families. So much so we have a liquor control board. Casinos are a curse and a blight. Tobacco? Don’t start. Opioids are legal, though more controlled than dope, and dope more controlled than alcohol and alcohol . . . till we find a way to cut out the bootlegger, the gang, organized crime . . . by becoming the organized government cartel.

It’s not about the effect and impact on kids, youth, families, society. It’s about the money. Always.

And every time the government gets involved, backed by the business cartel, product use and exposure and abuse does not diminish. It increases. Your daughter or son no longer has to have a second thought about the legality and advisability of dope. And we’ll spend millions warning about safe and responsible use and deliver the education in 3D — “Don’t dope and drive.”

But anytime we see our top cops at the front of the line promoting what they once arrested for, the hypocrisy stinks to high heaven.

Aleafia leadership

Julian Fantino, executive chairman

Police chief in Toronto (2000-2005), York (1998-2000) and London (1991-1998), commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police (2006-2010) and MP for Vaughan (2010-2015). Minister of Veterans Affairs (2013-2015) as well as of International Cooperation and State for Seniors.

Raf Souccar, president and CEO

Member of the RCMP for 34 years and retired as Deputy Commissioner of Federal and International Policing in 2011. Throughout his career, he was responsible for drugs and organized crime enforcement, national security, counter-terrorism and the prime minister’s security. In 2016, he was appointed to the federal government’s Marijuana Legalization Task Force.

Dr. Gary Goodyear, COO and vice-president of research

A chiropractor for 20 years, Goodyear was MP for Cambridge from 2004 to 2015, and served as Minister of State, Science and Technology and for the Federal Economic Development Agency, Southern Ontario.

William Stewart, director

Toronto’s former fire chief (2003-2012), he was on active duty for 40 years and was an officer in the Canadian Armed Forces. He has served on the boards of the National Fire Protection Association and Canadian Fallen Fire Fighters Foundation. He was named fire chief of the year in 2008 and 2010.

Change of heart

A look at Julian Fantino’s past public statements on marijuana:

“The evidence clearly indicates that organized crime is heavily involved in grow operations and the distribution of marijuana . . . I am also concerned about the apparent lack of scientific or medical certainty on the impact of marijuana use on humans and their activities.” — Fantino’s statement posted on the Sootoday.com, May 28, 2003

“My issue is not a morality issue. . . . To be frank about it, by making it easier to smoke pot we’re also increasing the profits and the activities of organized crime who are very much involved in the grow operations.” — Fantino to the Toronto Star, Dec. 24, 2003

“Legalization is an irresponsible policy that only puts dangerous drugs on the streets and in our communities, and sends the wrong message to children that recreational drug use is okay.” — Fantino in a flyer distributed to Vaughan households by his MP office, July 30, 2014

“Today, Justin (Trudeau) admitted that his top and urgent justice priority is to change the law to allow the sale of marijuana in corner stores, putting our children at risk. Justin’s singular justice policy will make smoking marijuana a normal, everyday activity for Canadians and he wants to make marijuana available in storefront dispensaries and cornerstores just like alcohol and cigarettes. This is simply wrong, and puts the health and safety of our children and communities at risk.” — Fantino’s Facebook page, Sept. 30, 2015

“This is not like smoking cigarettes. This is also the type of drug that is mind-altering and does have an impact on cognitive ability.” — Julian Fantino to Global News, Oct. 15, 2015

“I am completely opposed to the legalization of marijuana.” — Julian Fantino’s Twitter account, Oct. 16, 2015

Article source Toronto Star

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