No Need for Apologies, Jaycee Chan

Using marijuana should never be a question of morality.

Jackie Chan’s 32 year old son, Jaycee was arrested and imprisoned for a six-month jail sentence after allowing people to use marijuana in his apartment. Chan, who like his father has worked as an actor and singer, said he wanted to apologize for his mistakes and was ashamed. The young actor begged the public for a second chance following his prison release. Yet, I don’t understand why the possession of cannabis warranted such a heavy penalty and such a heartfelt apology in the first place. It certainly appears that the impression of ethics and good behaviour is more important that the actual crime.

“I'm very ashamed that I haven't been a good role model.”

Chan said. “I want to start again, but I know that it's the mass media that will decide.” Jaycee Chan’s arrest carries the risk of ending his entertainment career. Several Chinese management companies are saying they would refuse to employ celebrities caught using drugs. So why is it such a dishonour for Chan when popular role models in North America are quite open about their cannabis use. I don’t feel it has discredited them in any way. Conversely, it may have had the opposite effect of actually boosting their popularity and influence with young people. And we need these progressive role models now more than ever. Marijuana was the “pharmaceutical of choice” for Microsoft founder, Bill Gates. New York Mayor, Michael Bloomberg openly acknowledged his cannabis use, saying, “You bet I did. And I enjoyed it.” Even President Barack Obama told the American people that when he was a kid he inhaled frequently, “that was the point.” 

“Never give up the ganja” – Morgan Freeman

If it is ok for our most highly regarded political figures. Then it should come as no surprise that the western celebrities including Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman, with his famous quote, “Never give up the ganja” are outspoken supporters behind the political momentum to legalize the leaf.

Jaycee Chan received no special treatment in prison.

These individuals are using their influence to promote marijuana. Jaycee Chan spent six months in prison for doing exactly what his colleagues in the entertainment industry were doing. Despite his father’s celebrity status, Jackie Chan did not intervene on his son’s behalf. Jaycee Chan received no special treatment in prison, where conditions were “quite harsh.” The Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, opted to have Chan's news conference broadcast live. Experts say the arrests are part of a wider campaign by Beijing to promote morality. Yet, the live broadcast only highlights the propaganda value Beijing hopes to gain from the high-profile case amid a sweeping anti-drugs crackdown.

The arrest was shocking for his father, Jackie Chan, because of his status as a Chinese anti-drugs ambassador and deputy to the national legislature's main consultative body. Chan and Taiwanese actor Ko Kai both tested positive for marijuana. The authorities seized more than 100 grams of the drug from Jaycee's Beijing apartment. That’s about 3.5 ounces. To better put this number into perspective, the new Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulation (MMPR) in Canada permits card holders to posses either 30 times their daily prescription or 150 grams. Chan’s actions could have been perfectly legal in Canada.

Chan’s actions could have been perfectly legal in Canada. 

The penalty for possession in China could have been up to three years, but Chan was shown leniency by the court for having come clean with his law breaking. Clearly drug investigations are on the rise in Beijing. In the first half of last year there were 1,800 investigations — a 53 per cent rise. The Chinese authorities have also targeted prostitution and the broader illegal drugs trade over the past year. While I understand the need for law enforcement, I don’t believe that cannabis should ever be treated in the same category of severity as hard drugs and prostitution. A politician that lumps marijuana in the same classification as cocaine simply does not understand the difference.

A politician that lumps marijuana in the same classification as cocaine simply does not understand the difference.

Cannabis is relatively harmless: both to the individual and to society. Chan’s actions should not have warranted an on-air apology on national television. Many high profile members of the entertainment industry have stood up be the vanguards on cannabis legalization. However, this can’t continue if the people we look up to are held to some ambiguous moral standard of purity. Censorship and incarceration are the lessons people learn when the freedom of expression of their role models is sacrificed for current government policy.

“I have changed my outlook on life and my values.”

Following his release from six months imprisonment, Chan had the grace to say: “After this correction by the justice system, I have changed my outlook on life and my values.” I would add that the world lost a successful role model. Up until his arrest, Chan would have made a great inspiration for today’s youth to demonstrate that it is possible to hold a successful career and not ruin your life on cannabis. Now his career is potentially in jeopardy due to his use of marijuana, but only because the State interfered. It was not that the drug caused him to act erratic or irrational. He lost his status as an actor because of out-dated drug policies. 

Many successful young professionals smoke marijuana.

Chan said he'd first encountered marijuana eight years earlier on a trip to the Netherlands, but only became a regular user about two years ago. It seems like this is a common story for many of today’s mature cannabis users. What is sad is that Chan was raised in Los Angeles and cannabis use there may have been more socially condoned. Still, he has proven his professionalism through his work on camera. Chan has appeared in about 20 films and he is still only 32. The statement he gave in Beijing gives the impression that he would have said anything to be released from the conditions in prison. “I made mistakes, I will remember this lesson, I won't commit mistakes again in the future,” he said in Beijing... I want to apologize to everyone for my mistakes. I'm genuinely sorry.” I don’t believe there was any reason to apologize. Jaycee Chan was doing a fine job as a role model for young people before his arrest.

Letting people smoke cannabis in your apartment just makes you the cool friend of the group — not a national threat to morality.

Seth MacCallum
Seth MacCallum