By James Collins
Rob Ford is the Mayor of Toronto, the capital of Ontario and largest city in Canada. He has now admitted to smoking pot. He says he smoked a lot of it. Nobody should be very surprised. Since he is known for his drinking, a positively Herculean eating disorder, and potential crack use, there is no reason to assume some measure of cannabis consumption isn’t mixed in.
Rob Ford is the puppet of his own profligate appetites.
It’s nice to have politicians come out of the closet in a sense. This is a bit different in several ways, because Rob Ford is his own classification of politician. Ford isn’t sitting in opposition, he already won the election, so unlike Trudeau he isn’t risking very much with this statement. It’s kind of a shock to see a die-hard conservative admit to cannabis use, but Rob Ford likes attention so much that I think he would do anything for more press. This sure is better than people talking about him smoking crack on an alleged video that never surfaces. If anything, cannabis use would soften the criticism which previously extended to crack cocaine use, public drunkenness and inappropriate sexual conduct.
His image isn’t going to get worse, so he might as well go all-in.
In the context of Canadian politics this revelation isn’t really useful. As the Mayor of Toronto Ford has absolutely no power to effect change on our criminal code. Cannabis is strictly a federal issue in this country. He isn’t about to make any inroads with his fellow conservatives, ever since the crack video incident Rob has seen his support from other Canadian conservatives decline dramatically. People who might appreciate his endorsement still don’t like the fact he’s a fiscal conservative who cares more about cutting his budget numbers than about running a functional city. His public admission of cannabis use just doesn’t bring anything to the table.
I’m troubled by the notion of Canadian cannabis users embracing Rob Ford as some kind of symbol. His track record is abysmal, and if anything it helps support the narrative that pot users are uncontrolled addicts with no proper sense of social decorum. Sure, Ford was drunk when he shouted abuse and threats at a young couple during a Maple Leafs game, but now cannabis can share some of the blame for that incident.
You see where I’m going with this?
Rob Ford is an addict. It has nothing to do with cannabis, or booze, or crack, or anything but Rob Ford. Addiction and drug use runs in his family, his own sister has battled heroin addiction and his brother is rumored to have sold drugs before entering politics. Substance abuse hangs over the entire Ford family like a dark cloud. We don’t want that being associated with cannabis use. We don’t want addictive behaviors to be associated with cannabis, mostly because cannabis itself is not addictive.
Some people are genetically predisposed to addiction. That doesn’t mean they have no hope but to die in a filthy alleyway with a used needle hanging out of their arm. It just means they will always struggle with issues of impulse control. If it isn’t drugs it will be other pleasure-seeking behaviors, like gambling or promiscuous sexual behaviors. Addicts have poor control over their own impulses. They might do things like get drunk and shout at people during a hockey game even though they are a public figure and such behavior would be terribly bad public relations. Some addicts manage to gain control of their impulses, but clearly Rob Ford hasn’t reached that stage of his personal evolution.
Rob Ford is a physiological addict, plain and simple. His public escapades, his own staff leaving the Mayor’s office because he won’t seek treatment; Torontonians have watched Ford struggle with his addictions since he became a public figure over a decade ago. He isn’t addicted to one thing; he is addicted to everything that feels even remotely good. He made a rather public spectacle of trying to lose weight, only to be filmed going for more fried chicken as he failed to shed the pounds at his public weigh-ins. Rob just isn’t in control of himself.
Now he has admitted to smoking pot. This is a scant few days after Justin Trudeau the leader of the Canadian Liberal Party did the same. I guess Rob wants to steal some headlines. Sure, Trudeau is a federal politician and Rob is a municipal level public servant, but Rob isn’t clear on the fact that he and Justin are not in any way rivals. He often publicly comments from the office of Mayor about how higher levels of government ought to conduct themselves, as though he is playing in the same arena as them. Rob overestimates his own importance in the spectrum of politics by roughly one gajillion times. He wasn’t doing us all a service; he just wanted people to use his name in the press.
He’s a giant baby. If you want to know anything about Rob Ford just find the closest spoiled brat of an overgrown daddy’s boy and you’ve got Rob Ford. It’s not hard to picture him with a thumb jammed in his mouth. This isn’t a brave act to induce social change, Rob is just crying for attention.
I sincerely fret that Rob Ford is now going to muddy the waters of discussion about cannabis. Now issues of addiction are going to creep in, and the questions of cannabis and addiction are not one and the same. If you are an addict you might be compelled to smoke too much cannabis at the expense of your own productivity. Cannabis isn’t at fault for that, a faulty gene appears to be (according to a growing body of research on the subject of genetically sourced addiction), and I don’t want weed to take the rap every time Rob Ford makes a gigantic ass of himself.
I have included a list of Rob Ford favorites so the readers not aware of his antics can familiarize themselves with his public profile. Read that yet? Yeah – that guy just joined our team. I bet you’re overjoyed.
I like cannabis. Hell, I will openly admit that I need cannabis. If it wasn’t for the power of cannabis to treat both physical pain and mental stress I would either collapse under the pressure or be perpetually lobotomized by heavy opioids and tranquilizers. I do without a lot of dangerous medication because of cannabis, and I would like to have a legal option that doesn’t involve turning handsprings for the Health Canada medical cannabis program which is quite clearly designed to discourage you from using medical cannabis. Rob Ford is not helping that one iota. Rob’s behaviors and appetites make it seem like cannabis users are unhinged.
Not all endorsements on the subject of cannabis are equal. I don’t know about you, but I’m not eager for Charles Manson to step up and give his approval to the cause. Some people just give everything a bad name by attaching themselves to it, and I truly believe Rob Ford is on that list.
A man who cannot control his own public behaviors is not the person to get behind when you want to win a public relations battle. Rob Ford routinely says and does things that are so asinine and outrageous they pass the line of offensive and become a form of autosatirical comedy. That is the sort of thing that prohibitionists will hold up as evidence that cannabis is still evil and must have more restrictions placed on its manufacture and distribution than fissile materials and chemical weapons.
I like that people now know Carl Sagan smoked his share of weed. There is an intellectual, a man of distinction and education, and a person of the most respectable disposition. Carl Sagan was a truly great person in just about every way and his thumbs up is pretty hard to indict. We need symbols like that, people who are beyond reproach. A man known for screaming at people in public while drunk, using racial slurs in City Council, and playing grabass with female mayoral candidates is not in any way comparable.
It’s downright embarrassing to have him on the team. I wish he could go back in time and shut up.
James Collins is a Canadian blogger, author and activist.