Pubdate: Fri, 10 Jan 2014
Source: Simcoe Reformer, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2014 Sun Media
Author: Monte Sonnenberg


Marijuana Debate: Norfolk Police Services Board Members Weigh In

SIMCOE - Some on Norfolk's Police Services Board wonder if legalizing 
the recreational use of marijuana might cause as many problems as it solves.

Justin Trudeau, leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, made headlines 
last summer when he said he would legalize marijuana for recreational 
purposes if he formed the next government.

Trudeau and supporters of his position believe police are fighting a 
losing battle in their bid to eliminate marijuana as a recreational 
drug. Continued high demand in the face of expensive enforcement 
fuels a black market that enriches organized criminals while 
fostering violence in places like Mexico and South America.

The Trudeau camp believes saddling users with criminal records is 
disproportionate to the offence. They also believe it would be 
smarter to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol while treating 
addiction and over-use as a medical problem.

But members of the local PSB suspect there will be a price to pay. 
Simcoe Coun. Peter Black says marijuana will remain an enforcement 
issue regardless of what voters and politicians decide.

"It's like alcohol," he said Wednesday. "For those who can't control 
themselves, alcohol needs to be regulated. Marijuana is the same 
thing. If you smoke it, it is like a drug. It can impair your 
abilities. If you legalize it, there will still have to be controls over it."

PSB chair Peter Hellyer, of Simcoe, agrees. Even if marijuana is 
legalized, Hellyer says there will have to be standards on public 
impairment, driving under the influence and keeping the drug away from minors.

Hellyer adds the public needs a serious, in-depth discussion of the 
matter before major changes are made. He noted that the marijuana 
produced today is much more potent than the marijuana young people 
were smoking in the 1960s.

"It's definitely a conduit to harder drugs when used for recreational 
purposes," Hellyer said.

Canada received an unexpected opportunity to test Trudeau's thinking 
last fall when the states of Colorado and Washington voted in 
referendums to legalize marijuana. The law changed Jan. 1 in Colorado 
while Washington will dispose of its restrictions later this year. 
PSB member Dave Murphy, of Port Dover, is among those watching the 
situation with interest.

"I don't think we're ready for it yet," Murphy said. "I believe it's 
something that needs a lot of discussion. The doors are opening but I 
don't know where this is leading. There are other addictions that 
society doesn't seem to have a problem with. But I want to see how 
the issue unfolds in the U.S. before I go into any more detail."

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police favours minor reforms to 
the current law. The association believes fines for possession of 
small amounts of marijuana are preferable to charges that require a 
court appearance and which can lead to jail time and a criminal record.
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