Jay Baruchel talks cannabis legalization in Canadian Audible original 'Highly Legal'

Published Aug. 17, 2021 2:55 p.m. ET

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Jay Baruchel attends the season 3 premiere of "Man Seeking Woman" on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

TORONTO - Canadian comedy star Jay Baruchel's penchant for pot began with his discovery of a severe alcohol allergy.

The Montreal-raised actor-filmmaker, who's played a stoner in films including “Knocked Up” and “This Is the End,” says he turned to cannabis many years ago when he found out his liver lacks the proper enzymes to process alcohol correctly.

“It took five years of drinking for me to realize this, but what this meant was, every time I would drink anything, I would vomit violently for like two days afterwards,” Baruchel, 39, said in a video interviewfrom his Toronto home.

“Then I discovered weed and it had quite the opposite effect. So rather than vomiting constantly, it made me hungry.”

It also helped his clinically diagnosed anxiety disorder, added Baruchel, who explores Canada's recreational cannabis legalization in the new Canadian Audible original podcast series “Highly Legal.”

“I used to worry about everything and the kitchen sink,” he said. “After I found pot, I realized what my real priorities were.”

“Highly Legal” debuted Tuesday as part of Audible.ca's brand new Plus Catalogue, which gives members access to 12,000 titles at no extra cost. Other new projects on the service include the audiobook “Oracle” by Toronto writer Andrew Pyper, narrated by Vancouver-born actor Joshua Jackson.

In the series,Baruchel talks to industry experts about the history and future of cannabis in Canada after federal legalization on Oct. 17, 2018.

The “Goon” filmmaker said he liked that the series wasn't “going for any kind of low-hanging fruit” or tackling the subject matter in the jokey way it's often portrayed.

He was also intrigued by the various ways each province is approaching cannabis and how Canada is essentially “a laboratory for this great experiment.”

And he's interested in what amnesty might look like for those who were imprisoned “and had a life-altering punishment for pot possession,” and who “the strange bedfellows” of the industry are.

“There's a bunch of folks out there who made careers off of being hawkishly anti-weed and sending generations of people away who, overnight all of a sudden, became CEOs for burgeoning pot corporations,” said Baruchel.

“Whether or not you smoke weed, that should be something of interest to the average Canadian.”

Legalization is something Baruchel has long wanted, noting he never liked buying his cannabis from a dealer.

“So many times, I would hope against hope. I would say, 'I will pay twice as much as I pay now, and tax the (heck) out of me. Just allow me to buy this in the light of day and have a receipt, because there's nothing I should be ashamed of,”' he said, using an unprintable expletive.

Baruchel recalled facing the stigma of cannabis while participating in a magazine questionnaire in his early 20s. He was asked to name something that's always in his bag and he answered “rolling papers.”

“I remember my managers called me on a conference call to tell me why that might not be a good idea. And I mentioned rolling papers - rolling papers! I didn't say 'weed!”' he exclaimed.

“Then 'Knocked Up' came out and made a bunch of money and these same managers were like, 'Yeah, so we read this great script about a bunch of potheads out on vacation.' And I'm like, 'Wow, so that's all it took, was a movie that mentioned weed being successful.”'

Baruchel predicts Canada's cannabis industry will “inevitably level out,” like the Dawson City Gold Rush did, with an exodus of those those who rushed into the business to try to get rich.

And cannabis use will likely become as commonplace in movies as a character drinking a glass of wine, where it won't just be a punch line, he added.

He doesn't think cannabis needs to be treated with reverence but “constantly treating it as something goofy is ultimately ignorance and all that will lead to is people being left behind as a massive cultural and economic shift is taking place,” he said.

“I, for a long time, have said potheads needed better advocates than other potheads,” said Baruchel. “I own almost no clothing whatsoever with a marijuana leaf on it. I'm a pothead and I can't stand weed culture.”

But don't count on Baruchel to becomea cannabis entrepreneur, as many celebrities have, including fellow Canadian and “Knocked Up” star Seth Rogen.

He said he's been asked “a bunch of times” to put his name on a cannabis product but as of yet, he hasn't “been inclined whatsoever.”

“I don't want to be a business man. I like having a decent quality of life for my family and I,” said Baruchel.

“I like writing and I like directing. And for whatever reason people still think I can do stuff in front of the camera, and so once in a while I'll do that, too. But that's what I like to do, that's what I know.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 17, 2021.


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