Pubdate: Tue, 10 May 2016
Source: Tribune, The (CN ON)
Page: A3
Copyright: 2016, Osprey Media Group Inc.
Author: Bill Sawchuk


As the federal government works on rolling out its new marijuana laws,
police officers are dealing with a hazy perception of current drug
regulations by using a wide range of discretion, Niagara Regional
Police Chief Jeff McGuire said.

The ruling Liberals recently announced - on the pot-users unofficial
holiday of 4/20 of all dates - they will introduce legislation to
legalize marijuana in Canada in spring 2017.

As it stands, it is legal to purchase and consume marijuana with a
prescription, but it remains illegal and a criminal offense to do so
without the proper paperwork.

McGuire said an example he often cites is two adults sitting in
Montebello Park. One is drinking beer. One is smoking a joint.

"Right now, what is going to happen is the guy drinking the beer is
going to get a $150 Liquor Licensing Act ticket," McGuire said during
his monthly web broadcast show Chat with the Chief. "The other guy
will either have to grind his joint into the ground or have it seized
for evidence with no charge laid. Or we have to start an entire
criminal case.

"The officers have to weigh all the facts, such as if the person is a
continuous offender, or if it is a bunch of school kids," McGuire
said. "All those things come into play."

The unspoken reality, however, is those small drug possession charges
clog the court system, use up precious police resources and could
leave someone with a life-altering criminal record.

There is also a significant difference between decriminalizing
marijuana and legalizing it.

In some countries, pot is illegal but decriminalized. What that means
is you won't face criminal charges if police catch you with small
amounts of it. Legalization, as the Liberals have indicated they
intend to pursue, means smoking pot will be allowed but heavily
regulated by the government, much the same as alcohol is.

The government will also have to deal with who can produce marijuana
and sell it for consumer use. For the police and pot, it will be a
wait and see proposition until they have the new regulations in hand.

"This is going to take a long time," McGuire said. "Even if the
federal government hits their target of bringing in legislation, it
will have to be debated and get through the house and that whole
process. It will be a couple of years before the legalization gets
here, in my view.

"If people feel they are in the right, we end up in an education
process, and the officers will use the same discretion they have used
over the years. If the person says I don't care, the laws are going to
change, and I will use it now, they will be facing charges." 
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