Pubdate: Wed, 28 Aug 2013
Source: Sooke News Mirror (CN BC)
Copyright: 2013 Sooke News Mirror
Author: Jeff Nagel
Cited: Sensible BC:

Another Issue


A recommendation to let police treat simple marijuana possession as a 
ticketing offence is being opposed by the head of a provincial 
campaign to decriminalize pot.

Dana Larsen, whose group Sensible BC is set to kick off a petition 
campaign next month to force a referendum on marijuana policy, says 
the new resolution from the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police 
is counter-productive.

The chiefs' association argues the option of writing tickets to 
punish people caught with less than 30 grams of marijuana would be 
less costly and time-intensive than sending criminal charges through 
the courts.

"It's a bad idea," Larsen said. "It's actually going to result in 
more cannabis users being persecuted."

He said police in B.C. issue warnings or write reports on 18,000 
people a year for use of marijuana without laying charges.

"They would all get tickets under that new system," Larsen predicted.

He said the proposal could confuse B.C. voters as canvassers prepare 
to ask them to sign a petition that would press for a referendum on a 
proposed law blocking use of B.C. police resources for enforcing 
simple possession.

"Our solution does not involve fines or alternative penalties, it 
involves leaving people alone."

If Ottawa embraced broader legislative reform, he added, it should 
simply legalize pot.

"I'd rather see revenue generated through legalization, regulation 
and taxation rather than fining the people who happen to be unlucky 
enough to get caught by police," he said.

Larsen noted ticket-empowered police would still have the ability to 
charge some pot users, raising questions about potential selective enforcement.

The federal government, which would have to change federal 
legislation to enable marijuana ticketing, indicated it has no plans 
to legalize or decriminalize pot possession.

Vancouver Police Chief Const. Jim Chu, president of the Canadian 
Association of Chiefs of Police, said the organization does not 
support cannabis decriminalization or legalization.

Chu said police now must either turn a blind eye or lay charges when 
they encounter pot use, and ticketing would offer a new, more 
effective enforcement option.

The chiefs also say pot users who are ticketed for simple possession 
would avoid a criminal record that can block them from international 
travel, getting a job or gaining citizenship.

SFU criminology professor Rob Gordon called the resolution a 
significant shift that indicates police across the country - not just 
in B.C. - are ready for reform.

"It's the thin edge of the wedge, it's the beginning of a move away 
from the criminal enforcement approach," Gordon said.

He said Sensible BC campaigners are pushing for change too fast and 
said ticketing would be part of a more gradual move to alter public 
thinking and government policy.

"When marijuana policy is normalized, I think we'll look back at this 
period and say this is when the process began for the shift from 
criminalization towards regulation and taxation," Gordon said.

"If you go slowly, you can help people shift their thinking from 
their current belief that marijuana use is some sort of demonic 
activity to recognizing it as just another recreational drug that 
does minimal harm and the sky will not fall."

He said he wouldn't be surprised if B.C. liquor stores sell pot 
within five years.

Although Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been firmly against 
marijuana reform, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau's call for change 
this summer in B.C. re-ignited the issue.

Gordon said Harper won't be able to ignore the chiefs' resolution, 
although he might send it to a committee for a lengthy period of study.

A B.C. justice ministry spokesperson said police in B.C. must enforce 
the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act as it now stands and 
any changes to the legislation would be up to Ottawa.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom