Lacombe-Ponoka United Conservative Party MLA Ron Orr said his comments comparing the opium trade in China to marijuana use in Canada were misunderstood and twisted.
China’s “whole society was so broken down and debilitated by it,” Orr said in Alberta Legislature Wednesday during a debate on the bill regulating the sale of cannabis
“It contributed to the Chinese cultural revolution under the communists, the execution of thousands of people… and I, for one, am not really willing to go down this road.”
Orr said Canada may go down the same road.
“The human tragedy of what’s going to happen with this is yet to be revealed,” he said. “It doesn’t lead to the good life – it’s an escape.”
The comments sparked controversy on social media.
I have a degree in Asian history so let’s talk about @RonOrrMLA’s claim that the opium trade led to “a number of serious wars.”
It did, but not in a way that remotely helps Orr’s argument against cannabis legalization.
— Matt Hayles (@mathayles) November 30, 2017
@RonOrrMLA You are an embarrassment to Alberta.
— New Wave Dave (@davechanedm) December 1, 2017
Connie Kavaliunas, a Red Deer resident, was one person who did not like the comment. The daughter of a man who grew up in a communist country, Kavaliunas said Orr’s statement “hit her the wrong way.”
“I thought it was a ridiculous comment,” she said. “I’m 68 and I’ve learned I have to change my way of thinking. You can’t live in the time frame you grew up in. The world is changing.”
On Friday Orr said some people didn’t understand the point he was making.
“To say that I said marijuana is going to bring communism is just not true. That’s not what I was saying and that’s not my intent.
“My point was that we need to have some social compassion for the people who do get trapped in addiction and the people who suffer from the consequences of that addiction,” Orr said.
Orr called some of the negative feedback “vitriolic.”
“There’s a social cost marijuana may bring and already does bring in some respects to certain segments of our population,” he said.
Orr said he’s received positive feedback for his comments as well from agencies that deal with drug issues.
“The one thing I probably didn’t explain too well was comparing it to the opium trade in 17th and 18th Century China,” said Orr.
Orr said opium smoked at that time wasn’t like the heroin or opioids of today. He called the opium unprocessed, unenhanced and natural like marijuana.
“There are some parallels that are pretty close,” he said.