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'I smoked a lot’ of pot, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford says, but he won't say when

Toronto's Mayor, Rob Ford, talks to the media at Cambridge Club at the Sheraton Hotel in Toronto. August 28, 2013.

Gloria Nieto/The Globe and Mail

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford says he has smoked "a lot" of marijuana, but is not saying when that drug use took place.

Mr. Ford's comments follow those made by federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, who told reporters last week he smoked pot as recently as three years ago.

Since Mr. Trudeau's revelation, politicians have reacted on all sides on whether to decriminalize the drug. While federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay scolded Mr. Trudeau for flouting the nation's laws after taking office, others have said his actions simply do not matter.

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Taking questions from reporters after a campaign-style lunchtime address on Wednesday, Toronto's controversial mayor was asked if he had used pot. "Oh yeah," he said, chuckling. "I won't deny that. I smoked a lot of it."

Mr. Ford was at a loss to explain the recent flurry of attention on politicians' marijuana use. "I don't know why they are all coming out. You'll have to ask them," he said.

Toronto's mayor has been asked questions about his drug use before, but Mr. Ford usually refuses to comment. Earlier this year, Mr. Ford faced allegations that he was shown on video smoking crack cocaine. After several days of refusing to address the issue, he held a news conference to deny the allegations, saying "I do not use crack cocaine, nor am I an addict of crack cocaine."

Mr. Ford was pulled over by police in Florida in 1999 with a joint in his back pocket. He was charged with driving under the influence and pleaded no contest.

Officials in the mayor's office did not respond to questions about when he had used marijuana.

Also Wednesday, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said the choice to smoke marijuana is a "personal decision," and that the nation should have a debate on whether to legalize the drug.

Ms. Wynne, 60, said she "very, very infrequently" smoked marijuana in her youth and that she has not partaken in 35 years. And she said she would not pass judgment on Mr. Trudeau.

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"These are personal decisions that people make," she said, before heading into an afternoon cabinet meeting. "I'm not going to weigh in on a decision of another politician or individual."

Ms. Wynne said that she has not smoked the drug since before her first child was born, and that her use was slight.

"I have smoked marijuana, but not for the last 35 years," she said. "I anticipated this question, and I was trying to work out when the last time would have been. [I smoked] very, very infrequently, and certainly not since my children were born. … It has never been a big part of my life."

She would not take sides on the debate over the drug's future – Mr. Trudeau supports legalization – but said it is good the issue has been raised. "That's one of those discussions that we're going to have to have … it is a federal issue, but it's something that we all will have to weigh in on," she said. "It's one of those contentious subjects that we need to debate."

While the Criminal Code is solely a federal matter, the Ontario government would be affected by any decision on marijuana, as Queen's Park oversees prisons and police.

Ms. Wynne said the effect would have to be further analyzed before her government could make any pronouncement on it.

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"I don't have that analysis available to me. I think it's a discussion that we have to have. I think it's a good thing that it has been raised," she said. "But I'm not going to pretend that I can do that analysis on the fly. I think all those questions need to be asked, and they need to be asked in the context of the debate at the federal level."

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak and former premier Dalton McGuinty have both previously said they tried marijuana when they were young.

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Toronto City Hall bureau chief

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Washington correspondent

Adrian Morrow covers U.S. politics from Washington, D.C. Previously he was The Globe's Ontario politics reporter. He's covered news, crime and sports for The Globe since 2010. He won the National Newspaper Award for politics reporting in 2016. More

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