Pubdate: Thu, 06 Mar 2014
Source: Record, The (Kitchener, CN ON)
Copyright: 2014 Metroland Media Group Ltd.
Author: Lee-Anne Goodman


OTTAWA - The Conservative government is seriously considering more 
lenient marijuana laws that would allow police to ticket anyone 
caught with small amounts of pot instead of laying charges, says 
Justice Minister Peter MacKay.

"We're not talking about decriminalization or legalization," MacKay 
said Wednesday.

"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 ... to ticket those types of offences."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is open to such an approach, he added. 
The Justice Department is examining it and could present draft legislation.

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.

But MacKay has also been a fierce critic of Liberal Leader Justin 
Trudeau's stance on the issue. Trudeau supports the legalization of marijuana.

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 backbencher 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 Liberals.

Under the Criminal Code as it now stands, anyone convicted of 
possessing small amounts of marijuana can be jailed for up to five 
years. First-time offenders can face fines of up to $1,000 or as much 
as six months in jail.
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