Pubdate: Wed, 04 Sep 2013
Source: Lunenburg Progress Enterprise (CN NS)
Copyright: 2013 Lighthouse Publishing Limited
Author: Lisa Brown


'We're suggesting that this just makes sense' - John Collyer

BRIDGEWATER - Bridgewater's police chief has joined his counterparts 
across the country in calling for changes to drug laws which would 
allow officers to ticket people caught with small amounts of marijuana.

Last month, during a meeting in Winnipeg, the Canadian Association of 
Chiefs of Police passed a resolution calling on Ottawa to reform 
legislation so people found in possession of 30 grams or less of 
marijuana could be issued summary offence tickets.

"We're suggesting that this just makes sense," Chief John Collyer 
said last week. "The reality is that, right now, if our officers find 
somebody smoking a joint they have two options - they can either 
charge you and take you to court or they can seize the joint, destroy 
the joint and send you on your way with a warning," he said.

"And if they take you to court and you're convicted, you have a 
criminal record," he added.

That can impact future educational and employment opportunities, as 
well as limit the ability to travel outside the country.

In contrast, if a person is caught with an open can of beer, police 
can take it and issue a ticket. While that shows up on a local police 
record, it doesn't give the person a criminal record.

It also allows police to deal with the situation quickly, without 
tying up hours of resources processing an arrest and preparing a court file.

"It all goes back to talking about the cost of policing and using our 
resources efficiently," Chief Collyer said.

The proposed changes would not prevent police from laying a 
possession charge under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act if 
the situation warrants it.

For example, the chief suggested officers might do that with someone 
caught smoking a joint while driving a car or someone caught with a 
joint who has a history of drug possession or trafficking.

"What we're saying is give us another option," Chief Collyer said.

"I think what many of us think about is how often we come across 
somebody who we've never, ever dealt with before whose got no 
criminal record ... and we catch them with a joint in their hand."

The chiefs are not in favour of decriminalization or legalization, he added.

"That's not what this is about," Chief Collyer said.
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