Pubdate: Thu, 28 Jan 2016
Source: Georgia Straight, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2016 The Georgia Straight
Author: Travis Lupick


One of Canada's leading activists for marijuana reform is calling for
the government to immediately place a moratorium on arrests related to
the possession of cannabis.

"As the government moves to legalizing marijuana, it is unjust to
continue arresting people," Jodie Emery said in a telephone interview.

Emery said she has requested a meeting with her member of Parliament,
Hedy Fry, which has been scheduled for February 11.

Fry's office referred a request for an interview to the federal
Ministry of Justice. That office did not respond by deadline.

John Conroy is an Abbotsford-based lawyer who specializes in marijuana
law. He told the Straight there are two actions Ottawa could take to
minimize the number of people arrested for marijuana.

The first, Conroy said, would be for the prime minister or the
minister of justice to simply instruct the RCMP and municipal police
forces across the country to "deprioritize" cannabis. Conroy explained
that this is, essentially, how the Vancouver Police Department (VPD)
has dealt with the issue for years now.

"The minister of justice or the government could say: 'Listen, we have
indicated that we are going to legalize and so we are advising you not
to enforce certain provisions of the Controlled Drugs and Substances
Act pending new legislation,' " Conroy explained.

The second route, he continued, would be for the federal government to
amend that act to remove cannabis from its Schedule Two category of
illicit substances.

Conroy added that although the first option is simpler, the second is
preferred because it would prevent "keener" officers from applying
cannabis laws despite instructions from Ottawa that police should stop.

"Why penalize people and drag them through the system and cost the
taxpayers money and take up police resources?" he asked.

According to VPD statistics obtained via a freedom of information
request, during the first six months of 2015, the force recorded 473
cannabis offences. For the whole of 2014, that number was 991, down
from 1,057 in 2013.