Pubdate: Thu, 26 Feb 2015
Source: Almaguin News (CN ON)
Copyright: Almaguin News 2015
Author: Kathryn Boyle


ALMAGUIN - Righting a possession charge in the Almaguin region takes 
a little more effort than the rest of the province.

While sitting down with the Almaguin Highlands Ontario Provincial 
Police (OPP) Staff Sergeant Stacey Whaley recently, theNews asked why 
the names were included alongside corresponding possession charges.

"It's public information," the News was told. "We want you to publish 
the names because we want it to sting a little more than a $500 fine."

"It's public shaming used in the middle-ages," Joseph Neuberger, a 
defence lawyer at Neuberger and Partners LLP in Toronto and frequent 
cottager in Magnetawan had to say after hearing our local staff 
sergeant's response. "It's hardly appropriate and in fact 
counter-productive to people who are integrated into society and doing well."

Between December 2014 and February 2015, 11 people charged solely of 
marijuana possession have been sent to subscribers of the local OPP 
detachment news releases. The News refrains from printing names tied 
with possession charges. The Almaguin Highlands OPP detachment 
appears to be the only detachment in the area to send along those names.

Neuberger said possession charges vary depending on how much an 
individual is caught with.

"There was a movement to decriminalize charges under 30 grams," 
Neuberger said. "But it did not come to fruition."

"If caught with under 30 grams, most of the time it is diverted," he 
said. If that's the case, the person charged may be asked to make a 
charitable donation or spend some time with a counselor. These 
options are mainly available in the GTA.

When it comes to federal prosecutors, they have their own policies, 
Neuberger said.

"If the person charged has no criminal record and a minimal amount, 
the charge could be withdrawn," Neuberger said. "When it's over 30 
grams, you can see the prosecution becomes more serious. They might 
get conditional discharge and probation."

Jail-time might only be seen when charged with larger amounts for the 
purpose of trafficking.

Medicinal marijuana is a different story, Neuberger said.

"Some people are caught using cannabis that do not have 
authorization," he said. People using marijuana for medicinal 
purposes have to establish legitimate reasons for its use, which can 
feel like jumping through a set of hoops.

"We should try and have a more holistic view of this," Neuberger 
said. "If someone is caught with minimal use with no pre-existing 
criminal record, I do not see why we need to stigmatize anybody. I 
really think we need to stop and see where we're going with marijuana charges."

Neuberger said marijuana is rarely, if not ever, a reason behind any 
violent acts, including murder.

"Alcohol is sometimes a factor," he said. "And alcohol is legal."

Those charged are entered into the Canadian Police Information Centre 
(CPIC), which is a database logging all criminal charges. In these 
files, criminal and permanent records display what a person has been 
charged with in their lifetime.

When charged, people will have "disposition over pending" during 
court proceedings. If found guilty, it will then read guilty on their 
permanent record. CPIC keeps those records indefinitely.

If the case is withdrawn, deferred or the defendant has been found 
not guilty, those notes will remain on CPIC. A call to the local 
police or the RCMP can have those notes removed.

In 2012, marijuana became legalized in Colorado under the following 
conditions: adults aged 21 or older can grow up to six cannabis 
plants with no more than half being mature flowering plants and must 
be grown in a locked space. As long as the marijuana stays where it's 
grown, the grower can legally possess the drug. While traveling a 
person can carry up to an ounce at a time.

Marijuana legalization has been on the Canadian political radar for 
some time now. The idea first reached the mainstream when Paul Martin 
was Prime Minister, but swept under the rug while he was in office. 
Now, the matter is being brought up again by the Liberals and Justin 
Trudeau, who has recently admitted to smoking the drug as a Member of 

Candidates for the Parry-Sound Muskoka Liberal nomination had a 
couple things to say about their stance on marijuana legalization.

Phyllis Winnington-Ingram of Bracebridge said education is an 
important factor when discussing this particular issue.

"It's important to have the educational component there and the 
support of addiction," she said. "We have to do it in prudence. As we 
move forward, we have to be thoughtful and respectful.

"We should be supporting that development in a way that makes sense."

Eric Gonneau of Port Carling said the drug should not be illegal 
because it is known for its pain-relieving properties.

"Marijuana should not be an illegal drug," he said. "Marijuana was 
used to treat many diseases. I believe that our increasing budgets 
[to prohibit the drug] could be far better spent elsewhere."

Trisha Cowie of Muskoka Lakes said government should be looking into 
legalizing the drug simply because Canadian's are asking for it.

"It's certainly one reason why the government should support it is 
because Canadians are saying yes to it," she said. "We also have to 
protect our kids. Organized crime is the main benefactor of 
[marijuana] being criminalized. If we legalize it, we can take some 
control and ownership on where it's going. We need to protect our 
kids and this is the best way to do that."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom