Article by Justin Ling, BuzzFeed News
Canada is less than a year away from full-on marijuana legalization and lots of entrepreneurs are already getting a contact high off the prospect of making a buck from legal pot.
Some have experience in the black market. Some come from the pharmaceutical industry. Others are horticulturalists and hippies.
And some are cops.
This past week, former Toronto police chief and one-time Conservative cabinet minister Julian Fantino was called out for helping set up a medical marijuana business, even after spending years warning that cannabis was a serious danger (“I guess we can legalize murder too,” Fantino once said of liberalizing Canada’s drug laws), locking up thousands for simple pot possession, and working in a government that implemented harsh minimum jail terms for selling the drug.
In an interview with the CBC’s As it Happens, host Carol Off asked Fantino bluntly: “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?”
Fantino didn’t see any hypocrisy. Evidently, neither do the other former cops, police chiefs, government ministers, and members of police boards who have turned to pot since Ottawa announced its plans to regulate its cultivation and sale.
Take the cutely-named PUF Ventures, a Vancouver-based company that has applied to Health Canada to obtain a license to grow medical marijuana and which plans to branch out into the recreational market, according to regulatory filings.
The company boasts two former cops on its board: Jerry Habuda and Joe Perino, both longtime members of the Toronto Police Force.
Habuda spent a large part of his career investigating drug crimes, including undercover work, surveillance, patrol at a community housing project, and investigating those on bail for drug crimes. Perino, for his part, is a 30-year veteran of the service who worked on the force’s drug investigations unit.
BuzzFeed News reached Habuda to ask how he went from busting people for pot and selling it himself.
“Times have changed,” Habuda says. He’s now 100% onboard with legalizing the drug — and stands to cash in if PUF takes off.
But Habuda says he was never one of the hardliners.
“I wasn’t really worried about the personal users,” Habuda said. “When I was on the job, we’d go after the people who were producing it illegally.” He gave examples of grow-ops moving into apartment complexes and bringing black mold and fungus along with them.
While BuzzFeed News doesn’t have access to Habuda’s policing record, he maintains that he avoided charging recreational users unless they were committing another crime, like firearm possession.