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


A lot the focus these past few weeks in the pages of the Almaguin News
has been devoted to the Ontario Provincial Police and for good reason.

Changes to the force's billing model is coming as a shock to local
municipalities and come later this spring to property taxpayers and
the resulting budget hikes show up on their bills. But those stories
are about a subject that starts and ends above any decisions made at
the Almaguin Highlands OPP detachment in Burk's Falls.

That isn't the case, however, for another story about the OPP
appearing this week regarding enforcement and the much-debated drug
widely known as marijuana.

For months now we've noticed the detachment has been including simple
marijuana possession arrests and charges in incident reports they
periodically send out. To be clear, these are charges for having
relatively small amounts of the plant on their person or in their car
or home, to the point it is not considered to be a sufficient part of
any business plan. These are pot users, not pot dealers.

Yet in come the names from the local detachment of these 'offenders,'
so we asked about it.

The reasoning from detachment commander Staff Sergeant Stacey Whaley
is unsettling. He wants it to 'sting' a little more. It is reasonable
to assume that by 'sting' Sgt. Whaley means having the name published
would embarrass or shame the person by having their name go public.
It's also presumable he knows that in today's Google age the charge
won't just appear once in the pages of the Almaguin News, but for
years come up whenever anyone, say a perspective employer, punches the
person's name into the search engine.

He holds this attitude despite the fact many of Ontario and Canada's
judges have ruled the best manner in which to settle the charges is
for the accused to pay a set fine or undergo some other diversionary
program with the charges floating off into the legal ether and no
conviction attached to the person's file. Such a course of action, we
understand, does much to ensure it doesn't hinder future employment,
attempts to cross an international border, or other delicate situations.

At the same time the OPP commander seems to be unaware of the changing
conversation the population is having around marijuana. Medical
marijuana has been legal in Canada for quite some time with varying
degrees of success, depending with whom one speaks, under the boasts
of a law and order agenda from the Conservative government.

At the same time no less than the Commissioner of the Royal Canadian
Mounted Police has gone on record saying he believes marijuana use
should be dealt with as a ticketing offence and not a criminal charge,
while the Vancouver police chief says pot enforcement is not a
priority for his force.

Recognize that this is not a call for the legalization of marijuana,
though many inches of newspaper editorial space has been devoted to
that stance, this paper included. Instead it is a reminder that
punishments in this country need to be determined in a court of law
and not by the officers directed to enforce it.
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