Thursday, August 13, 2015

UPDATED: Carnac The Magnificent Stephen Harper Is Not

Readers of a certain age will remember with fondness the Tonight Show, starring Johnny Carson. A staple in my youth and throughout my adult life, Carson was a peerless entertainer who would often go to considerable lengths for laughs; like all comedic endeavours, some worked better than others.

One of Carson's enduring creations was Carnac The Magnificent, a 'psychic' who would hold up an unopened envelope, discern its contents, and give an answer to the question posed within. Sometimes it worked well, other times it bombed.

It appears that Stephen Harper is our own version of Carnac, discerning answers from some etheric realm that is not accessible to mere mortals, answers that seem at odds with secular polling results and science. One such instance occurred the other day, when Stephen the Magnificent pronounced on Canadians' views on marijuana:

How well do Harper's assertions stand up? CTV News investigated, and came up with these results:

“Most Canadians (when) you actually ask them, do not want the full legalization of marijuana.”

A 2014 survey by Angus Reid Global found that 59 per cent of the 1,510 Canadians surveyed supported legalizing marijuana and 41 per cent were opposed.

“I think the statistics in places like Colorado are very clear on this. When you go down that route, marijuana becomes more readily available to children.”

Marijuana has only been legal in Colorado since Jan. 1, 2014, so extensive research has not been conducted. However, drugs have been decriminalized in the Netherlands since 1976, and past-year cannabis use among young Dutch citizens appears to be declining. Among those aged 15 to 24, past-year use dropped from 14 per cent in 1997 to 11 per cent in 2005, according to a study in the journal Addiction.

“Marijuana use has actually been declining (in Canada).”

A recently-published report by Statistics Canada noted that about 12 per cent of Canadians surveyed in 2012 said they had smoked marijuana in the previous year – the same proportion the agency found when it did the same survey in 2002. However, the results did vary by age. Past-year marijuana use declined over the decade by nearly one-third among those between the ages of 15 and 17, was stable among those aged 18 to 24 and went up among those 25 or older.

While the issue of marijuana legalization may not be uppermost in most people's minds, Harper's stance and his frequently fanciful assertions on the topic do serve to remind us of something none of us should forget as we prepare to cast our ballots. The Harper regime has shown a consistent aversion to empirical data, an aversion that has led to the muzzling of scientists, the end of the mandatory long-form census, egregious contempt for the implications of climate change, and the passing of punitive criminal laws in a time of steadily declining crime, just four consequences among many of a government bent on governing almost exclusively through the narrow lens of ideology.

Unlike the Carnac skits, there is nothing to laugh about in Stephen Harper's pronouncements.

UPDATE: the Toronto-based International Centre for Science in Drug Policy is now weighing in on the prime minister's Pinocchio proclivities. M. J. Milloy, an infectious-disease epidemiologist,

said his group’s research proves that recent use by teens in Colorado has gone down from 22 per cent to 20 per cent in the first year that the U.S. state regulated recreational pot sales. The Conservative Party did not respond to calls for comment on the report.

“It’s not a sort of a ‘push a button, get the result’ type thing,” Dr. Milloy said. “We’ve had, what, 40 years of doing things Mr. Harper’s way, both under his government and under previous governments, which have enacted a very stringent cannabis prohibition model.

“Where are we after billions of dollars and thousands of arrests? We are at a place where Canadian teens lead the world in marijuana use.”

You can read the report, and the debunking of the kinds of myths Mr. Harper likes to perpetuate, here.


  1. You still don't get it, Lorne. When Harper says most Canadians don't support full legalization of weed, "Canadians" means those voters who are sufficiently addled and fearful to vote Conservative. The others aren't real Canadians and they don't matter.

    By the way, trim the verbosity. Why write "readers of a certain age" when you could more accurately say "old farts like me"?

    1. I am once more well-rebuked, Mound.