Pubdate: Wed, 18 Dec 2013
Source: London Free Press (CN ON)
Copyright: 2013 The London Free Press
Author: Daniel Proussalidis


Fines considered for simple possession

OTTAWA - As the year ends, Justice Minister Peter MacKay is strongly
hinting that steps to modernize Canada's marijuana laws might be just
around the corner.

Fining pot smokers for possession of small amounts is one policy the
government will likely consider.

"That doesn't mean decriminalizing or legalizing, but it does mean
giving police options, for example, to issue fines in addition to any
other sanctions, or as a substitute for other sanctions," MacKay told
QMI Agency.

"These are things that we are willing to look at in the new year, but
there's been no decision taken."

This is the first time the Conservatives have mentioned the idea since
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the feds were looking "very
carefully" at it in August.

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police says fining pot smokers
may be just the ticket to give officers an option other than ignoring
law-breakers or criminally charging them, setting up a long, expensive
legal process.

The Tories may also be feeling the heat as Liberal Leader Justin
Trudeau remains high in the polls, even after admitting to illegally
smoking pot while serving as an MP and supporting full legalization of
the drug.

MacKay couldn't resist taking a shot at Trudeau, saying the Grit pot
policy is "a weak substitute for a lack of fiscal, economic or foreign

Trudeau has also questioned the wisdom of imposing mandatory minimum
prison terms for various crimes, a policy the Conservatives have
embraced enthusiastically since forming a government in 2006.

MacKay says the government won't back down now.

"It sends a very strong message of deterrence, condemnation and public
abhorrence of certain types of offences," he said. "And we're talking
about predominantly serious, violent offences - offences that involve
sexual assaults on children; that involve distribution of drugs to
children; that very much offend Canadian values."

The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) predicted the prison
population would explode to almost 19,000 federal inmates this year
because of the Tories' new mandatory minimums on repeat offenders.
That prediction never materialized. The latest CSC head count actually
found around 15,000 federal inmates.

MacKay says he doesn't know why the original projections were so
wrong, unless they only amounted to "political rhetoric or alarmist
thinking." The justice minister might also have to deal with Canada's
prostitution laws in 2014.

On Friday, the Supreme Court will rule on three former hookers'
constitutional challenge of Canada's prostitution laws.

While the feds wait for that, Conservative MP Joy Smith is pushing for
an approach to prostitution similar to Sweden's - the so-called Nordic
model of putting johns in prison, while offering prostitutes an escape

MacKay says he's not sure that's the right approach.

"I'm not entirely convinced that the direction that has been attempted
in other countries, and this Nordic model being one, is the right fit
for Canada," he said.

"We do believe that the current Criminal Code provisions are
constitutionally sound, or we would not be making the arguments that
we're making before the Supreme Court."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt