Pubdate: Thu, 05 May 2016
Source: NOW Magazine (CN ON)
Copyright: 2016 NOW Communications Inc.
Author: Enzo DiMatteo
Page: 12


Criminal Lawyers' Association smokes out feds on pot possession 
charges tying up the courts

Despite the government's commitment to legal marijuana, possession 
charges continue to be prosecuted in Canada's courts.

Criminal Lawyers' Association (CLA) president Anthony Moustacalis 
wrote Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould back in February asking 
for a directive to stay all charges currently in the system.

Why tie up the courts, his letter asks, with costly charges for a 
substance that will eventually be legal? The feds have announced that 
they plan to bring in their legal pot regime next spring. But so far 
Moustacalis has received no response from the feds.

Pot possession continues to make up the bulk of all drug charges laid 
by police in Canada, accounting for 54 per cent of all drug-related 
offences. According to Statistics Canada, 59,000 marijuana possession 
charges were laid in 2013. And those numbers are only going up. 
Marijuana-related offences have jumped by 8 per cent over the last decade.

The CLA's letter says it takes an average of 85 days for a simple 
possession charge to make its way through the courts. And those 
proceedings will only require more time and resources, says the CLA, 
as those currently facing possession charges try to prolong their 
cases knowing legalization is coming.

The costs associated with pot possession charges become higher when 
offenders land in jail, the CLA argues. While it's uncommon for those 
facing possession charges to be incarcerated, statistics indicate 
that the risk exists: 3,969 adults served sentences for simple possession
between 2008 and 2012. 
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