Naturally, Fantino, the former police chief, falls back on the old “I had to enforce the laws as written” argument to justify all the cannabis arrests and prosecutions he oversaw. But in a markedly confrontational interview with the CBC, he also said “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.”
Interesting take—and one that raises a few questions. For starters: On what basis did Fantino decide who deserved a break and who deserved to go to jail? If he gave people “all kinds of breaks” for cannabis as a police chief, why did Fantino go on to campaign for tougher penalties as a Cabinet minister? And how can he justify profiting off cannabis so soon after acting as a national spokesperson against legalization?
Asked all this and more, Fantino offered a refreshingly honest response:
“Now it’s being made a legal item and so therefore there’s no point in me arguing the issue.”
Or, as the Canadian news satire This Hour Has 22 Minutes put it:
Julian Fantino has never wavered from his true belief that Julian Fantino should make money no matter what Julian Fantino needs to say or do to make that money.
To this day, Fantino remains incapable of disavowing his past actions and statements, even though they’re diametrically opposed to the positions he now holds.
“You can frame it anyway you want,” he told the CBC, “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.
You’re right about that Julian—no one can take from you something that never existed.
First Step: Apologize
Cannabis activist Jodie Emery—who, along with her husband Marc Emery, just accepted a plea deal for operating two unlicensed dispensaries in Canada—recently took to Twitter to decry “cops and politicians who opposed legalization and ruined lives and are now cashing in on legal weed, with no apology.”
In one epic thread, Emery rattled off (with links) the names of 17 prominent former law enforcers who’ve made that move, including a former head of the Royal Mounted Canadian Police, a slew of former police chiefs, a former federal criminal investigator, and the former head of the RCMP Drug Squad.
Thousands of peaceful people continue to suffer arrest, jail, criminal records, exclusion for pot — while cops & politicians who opposed legalization & ruined lives with the law are cashing in on legal weed, with no apology.
Here’s a list of their names & companies.
— Jodie Emery (@JodieEmery) December 17, 2017
Second Step: Acknowledge Your Privilege
What’s next? Jeff Sessions stepping down as US Attorney to become general counsel for the National Cannabis Industry Association? Don’t hold your breath (especially since science has proven that holding smoke in your lungs doesn’t get you any higher).
A New York state assemblyman gets off with community service and a $75 fine. Others go to prison.
As long as cannabis remains federally illegal in the United States, nobody from that high up in federal law enforcement is likely to get sucked into the Green Rush. There have been a few high-profile defections to Team Cannabis, though. Example A: the sudden and astonishing roadside conversion of New York Assemblyman Steve Katz.
In March 2013, Katz was stopped for speeding on his way to work. When the state trooper who pulled him over detected the scent of cannabis in his car, a search ensued, followed by a ticket for possession of “a small bag of marijuana”—a charge that was later dismissed after Katz completed 20 hours of court-appointed community service and paid a $75 fine.
A Republican and, at the time, a member of the State Assembly’s Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Committee, Katz had been a staunch public cannabis opponent up to the moment of his bust. He’d voted against a statewide medical marijuana bill just a year prior.
Timing Is Everything
How did Katz explain his sudden conversion? Well, first of all, he said, that was definitely the last time he was gonna vote to make cancer patients suffer through chemo without smoking a joint. Because before he got popped, Katz had already, allegedly, secretly made up his mind to vote his conscience—starting next time. His wife can totally back him up on that.
“I decided to vote what I believed to be the vote of my constituents,” he told Smell the Truth shortly after getting busted, by way of explaining his earlier no vote on the medical cannabis bill. “The day after that I told my wife, ‘Next year, I’m voting for medical marijuana because that’s what I believe in… I knew how I was going to vote a year before the police incident and I felt great about it.”
To steal a line from Dana Carvey’s Church Lady: Well, isn’t that convenient.
Also convenient for Katz: Unlike many of his constituents, getting busted for cannabis didn’t cost him his job, custody of his children, his student financial aid, much money or a day of his freedom. He didn’t even take a leave of absence from lawmaking or pretend to feel bad about getting popped.
Calling cannabis legalization “a core belief” from the time he was in college—except, you know, that time he voted against it—he described getting ticketed as a personal epiphany.
“You’re turning me into a criminal? You got to be kidding,” Katz reportedly thought when the state trooper discovered his stash. At that point, he recalled, Katz resolved to “not only be a champion for medical marijuana, and for its total legalization, but also to become part of the wave that’s building in the industry itself.”
A Different Vote
To that end, Katz did indeed support the same medical marijuana bill he’d earlier opposed, the next time it came up for a vote. He also partnered with cannabis industry investment firm The Arcview Group in hopes of raising $10 million in venture capital to pour into the industry.
In 2016, Katz retired from the New York State Assembly and returned to his veterinary practice. He also announced the launch of Therabis, a full line of CBD-infused dog food and treat supplements that “harness the power of hemp to make your best friends feel better.”
Recently, Pet Age asked him about the company and his plans for the future.
“I’m fascinated with the science and medicinal potential for all the compounds found in the cannabis plant and intend to continue clinical research on all of them,” he said. “I hope and expect to see a spectrum of novel, natural medicinals, supplements and foods based on the extracted, fractionated cannabinoids we are currently studying, including CBD. This represents the future of natural veterinary medicine throughout the 21st century.”