Pubdate: Wed, 16 Jul 2003
Source: Midland Mirror (CN ON)
Copyright: 2003 Midland Mirror
Author: Janis Leering
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


You won't see people running around Midland smoking pot just yet, but
local police aren't laying any minor possession charges, either.

Midland Police Service is still waiting to see what happens in the
Ontario Court of Appeal before charging anyone with possession of
small amounts of marijuana.

Chief Paul Hamelin said he is keeping track of people who are caught
with the substance, but not handing out tickets.

"We are still seizing the drugs, and creating a record of the
incident," said Hamelin.

The Ontario Court of Appeal has put a rush on an appeal after a teen
was acquitted of possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana this

"The Ontario Association of Chiefs has been vocal about the issue of
marijuana use, and if it is decriminalized, we want to see that things
are done properly."

He said police will follow the court's final decision, even if it
makes his job more difficult.

"Marijuana is a substance which is mind-altering, and it should be
something people avoid using.

"Just like alcohol, which is a legal substance. The consumption of
alcohol contributes to our work, with drunk drivers, assault and
domestic situations."

Hamelin said there is a big difference between decriminalizing
marijuana, and legalizing it.

As the law stands, once someone is caught with any amount of pot, they
have a criminal record.

Such is the case of an Ontario man who had a medical exemption to be
able to smoke pot, but he was charged because he was growing it himself.

Decriminalizing marijuana means it is still illegal, but there would
be no criminal record. People caught with a joint would be given a

Legalizing it would mean anyone can have an amount of marijuana in
their possession, without being ticketed by police.

The court's decision now is whether to allow people to have less than
30 grams of marijuana in their possession.

That would equal approximately 20 rolled joints.

Under the proposed new laws introduced by Justice Minister Martin
Cauchon, possession of less than 15 grams of pot would be a minor
offence with no criminal record.

Violators would be ticketed and ordered to pay fines ranging from $100
to $250 for youths and from $150 to $400 for adults.

Hamelin has several issues with decriminalizing pot. He said marijuana
may be accepted as a medical use, but there is no legal way to get it,
because cultivating and trafficking are still offences.

"It is still illegal to grow your own, or even pass a marijuana
cigarette to someone else."

Hamelin also believes the regulated amount should be far less than 30

"The government was looking at less than 15 grams, but what we'd like
to see is a very small amount, such as less than five grams."

He'd prefer to keep marijuana off the streets altogether.

"Why introduce another substance into the repertoire, with the
possibility for abuse? We have enough already."

And if marijuana is ever legalized, he said teens would likely take up
the habit.

"Young people may try marijuana, but because it's not legal, they
choose to stop."

Hamelin said the potency of marijuana is much stronger

"It's not like the 60s' homegrown stuff, where the THC was at a low
level. The THC is much higher now, the way large growers can culture
the plant. It's more potent."

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the main ingredient in the narcotic
marijuana, which gives it potency. Marijuana without THC is known as
hemp, and is used to make food, clothing, and many other products.

Since Midland has also passed a smoking ban, Hamelin said it's unusual
to be changing the law regarding marijuana cigarettes.

No matter what the courts or medical professionals decide, Hamelin
said it is his duty to enforce the law.

If marijuana is decriminalized, he hopes the government increases
education, and enhances drug enforcement.

"This is a serious issue, and if it is decriminalized, Ontario will be
out of sync with the rest of the country."

With files from Torstar News Service
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