Pubdate: Mon, 13 Jun 2016
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Page: A7
Copyright: 2016 The Hamilton Spectator
Author: Joanna Smith


OTTAWA - The New Democrats are urging the Liberal government to 
decriminalize pot before they legalize it.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau campaigned on a promise to legalize, 
regulate and restrict access to marijuana, and his government plans 
to get started next spring.

Meanwhile, the existing criminal law remains on the books and police 
are expected to enforce it.

The NDP is introducing an opposition day motion on Monday calling on 
the House of Commons to recognize there is a contradiction in giving 
people criminal records for something the government has said should 
not be a crime.

The motion also calls on the government to decriminalize simple 
possession of marijuana for personal use immediately.

"Arresting people and giving them criminal records for possession of 
small quantities just doesn't seem fair, in light of their 
commitment, apparently, to legalize marijuana," New Democrat MP 
Murray Rankin said Sunday.

Rankin also said the law is being applied inconsistently across the 
country, which adds to the unfairness.

Rankin said one way to decriminalize it without having to wait for 
legislation to make its way through Parliament would be to have 
Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould issue a directive under the 
Public Prosecutions Act ordering Crown counsel to avoid proceeding 
with prosecution for simple possession offences.

"I just think the sensible thing to do would be to no longer charge 
people until we can get the reformed regime in place," said Rankin.

Health Minister Jane Philpott formally announced in April the federal 
government's plan to legalize and regulate marijuana when she spoke 
to the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

"We know it is impossible to arrest our way out of this problem," 
Philpott told a special session on global drug policy as she revealed 
the promised legislation could come in spring 2017.

That same day, Trudeau argued it would be irresponsible to 
decriminalize marijuana in the meantime.

"We believe in the legalization and regulation of marijuana because 
it protects our kids and keeps money out of the pockets of criminal 
organizations and street gangs," Trudeau told the House of Commons.

"The fact of the matter is that decriminalization, as the member 
proposes, actually gives a legal stream of income to criminal 
organizations. That is not what anyone wants in this country," Trudeau said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom