Pubdate: Thu, 06 Mar 2014
Source: Prince George Citizen (CN BC)
Copyright: 2014 Prince George Citizen
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, Justice 
Minister Peter MacKay said Wednesday.

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

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.

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