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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.

Former Toronto police chief Julian Fantino, left, is executive chair of the medical marijuana services company Aleafia, while ex-RCMP deputy commissioner Raf Souccar, is the company's president and CEO.

Samantha Beattie / Torstar News Service Order this photo

Former Toronto police chief Julian Fantino, left, is executive chair of the medical marijuana services company Aleafia, while ex-RCMP deputy commissioner Raf Souccar, is the company's president and CEO.

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.

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

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