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


Tickets Possible Instead of Charges

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, Justice 
Minister Peter MacKay says.

"We're not talking about decriminalization or legalization," MacKay 
said Wednesday after the weekly Conservative caucus meeting 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 ... to ticket those 
types of offences," he said.

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 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 time.

"Justin Trudeau's comments to elementary schoolchildren regarding the 
legalization of marijuana is not only bad policy, but is completely 
unacceptable and grossly inappropriate," MacKay said in a statement 
at the time.

"He's directly delivering a message to children now that recreational 
drug use is OK."

In fact, Trudeau had responded to the question in Sioux Valley by 
saying that marijuana was dangerous for young people. He added that 
he believed that regulating pot would help keep it out of the hands 
of children.

The Liberal Leader called on MacKay to retract the comments, calling 
them "shameful."

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."

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.

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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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom