Q&A: George Smitherman on medical marijuana, becoming a single dad and that Rob Ford “shit”
You recently announced that you’re getting into the weed business, which seems like an odd career choice: former health minister turns pot farmer. Why medical marijuana, and why now?
I’m not sure I agree with your premise. Medical marijuana is a legitimate industry that presents tremendous opportunities to help people, and it’s projected for extraordinary growth.
There are 450 applicants hoping to cash in on the new, loosened pot laws. What makes your product better than theirs?
Reputability. Our head of security, Kim Derry, is the former deputy chief of the Toronto police. Kandavel Palanivel, a pharmacist and a farmer, is in charge of the product itself. And I’m in charge of the application and doctor outreach.
How much will you charge for a gram?
Health Canada recommends $7.50. We’ll aim to beat that, but it’s too early to declare a specific price point.
Has medical marijuana helped people you know?
Yes. Friends in the gay community who say it restores appetite and combats the nausea caused by HIV drug cocktails.
Do you smoke weed?
I have, although rye was the substance of choice in my youth. Those wild days are over. The parties I’m planning now are princess-themed ones for my four-year-old daughter, Kayla.
How are you and the kids coping since losing Christopher, your husband, to suicide in December?
We’re doing well in our circumstances, but our circumstances are shit. My kids are my barometer, and they are happy, loved and busy: Kayla does ballet, and Michael, who’s five, plays tennis. The pitter-patter of their feet in the morning is the best medicine.
Are they old enough to process what happened?
They know that their Dada is gone and not coming back. We lost three cats in the years before Christopher died, which introduced them to the pain of death, but there’s a big void in our lives. We talk about him often.
What’s your daily routine?
We’re up at 7 a.m., and into the SUV by 8 a.m. I drop Michael off at breakfast club and gymnasium play, then Kayla at daycare. I’m at my office until about 4:30 p.m., and then I reverse the routine—kids, home, dinner. They’re becoming adventurous eaters. I’m getting better at stir-fries, pasta and salads. Then it’s bath and bed time.
Your consulting firm, G and G Global Solutions, is relatively low profile. How much do you miss lobbing F-bombs and felling adversaries at Queen’s Park?
I still swear, though I try to reel those off outside of home. Mostly I miss the camaraderie and sense of team. But I’m done with politics. Christopher never believed me—he said it’s my calling—but I don’t see the passion coming back.
As the guy who came second to Rob Ford in 2010, do you find his catastrophic mayoralty harder to swallow than most Torontonians?
Not really. I respect the choice the voters made. But do I have any regrets? Sometimes I ask myself what would have happened if I had been more of a prick during the campaign. Michael had just come into our lives, and that really softened me. At the end of the day, I probably still would have lost to Ford, and I’d be left an angrier person. Instead, I’m a parent, which was the perfect exit plan.
Who’s going to win the mayoral election?
Olivia Chow. The real question is: what’s going to happen with Ford? I don’t want him to resign. The ballot box is the only way to eliminate the wafting scent that all the Febreze in the world can’t rid us of. Otherwise people will say he was run out of office by the Toronto Star or the police. I don’t want to hear that shit for the rest of my life.
Any advice for how to cope if he is re-elected?
Don’t let it happen. Hold your nose and vote strategically if necessary.
You realize that was a great opportunity to plug your product.
Ha. Not even the strongest weed can numb us against the effects of a second stint under Ford.