Pubdate: Thu, 06 Mar 2014
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: 2014 The Hamilton Spectator
Author: Lee-Anne Goodman

Ticket Time?


OTTAWA The Conservative government is seriously considering more
lenient marijuana laws that would allow police to ticket, not charge,
people caught with small amounts of the drug, says Justice Minister
Peter MacKay.

"We're not talking about decriminalization or legalization," he said
Wednesday on Parliament Hill.

"The Criminal Code would still be available to police, but we would
look at options that would give police the ability, much like the
treatment of open liquor =C2=85 to ticket those types of offences," he sa

MacKay has hinted in the past that such a move was under
consideration. The country's police chiefs - as well as some Tory
caucus members - have long called for ticketing people for pot
possession instead of laying criminal charges. Prime Minister Stephen
Harper is open to such an approach, MacKay added.

The Justice Department is examining it and could present draft

But MacKay has also been among the Conservatives' fiercest critics of
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau's stance on the issue. Trudeau supports
the legalization of marijuana, a position the Tories have mocked with
gleeful abandon.

MacKay accused the Liberal leader of promoting drug use to elementary
schoolchildren last fall after Trudeau answered a question about his
marijuana policies from First Nations high school students in Sioux
Valley, Man. There were elementary school kids in the audience at the

The Liberal Party took great delight Wednesday in MacKay's apparent
change of heart on the issue, tweeting: "Denial, anger, and now
acceptance. Conservatives finally agree with  on
reforming ineffective marijuana laws."

Trudeau wasn't in the House of Commons on Wednesday, but Liberal MP
Sean Casey said the Conservative shift "is almost surprising, but it
really isn't because this government will do or say anything to win"
as a 2015 federal election looms.

"It's laughable how vicious and fact-free the attacks have been, and
now this supposedly principled group has apparently read their own
internal polls that have indicated that Mr. Trudeau is absolutely on
the same page as most Canadians on this issue," Casey said.

As recently as last Friday, however, a Tory back bencher railed
against Trudeau's marijuana stance as he mocked NDP Leader Thomas
Mulcair's suggestion that he'd be open to forming a coalition with the

Under the Criminal Code as it now stands, anyone convicted of
possessing small amounts of marijuana can be jailed for up to five

First-time offenders can f ace fines of up to $1,000 or as much as six
months in jail.
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