Pubdate: Fri, 22 Jul 2016
Source: StarPhoenix, The (CN SN)
Page: A1
Copyright: 2016 The StarPhoenix
Author: Charles Hamilton


Saskatoon's police chief says police forces across the country are 
charging fewer and fewer people with marijuana possession as 
legalization of recreational use looms.

"Police right across Canada, I think, started to back off on the 
charges for minor possession," Chief Clive Weighill said earlier this week.

After a spike in possession charges in 2013, Saskatoon has seen a 
steady decline in the number of people charged with possession: the 
number dropped by 27 per cent between 2013 and 2014, then by 10 per 
cent from 2014 to 2015, according to Statistics Canada data. This 
year, however, pot possession charges have remained nearly the same 
as last year. As of this week, slightly more than 190 people have 
been charged so far in 2016, according to data from city police.

Weighill said the possession numbers will decline further as the 
government's promise of legalizing marijuana for recreational use by 
2017 closes in.

"Through the 2016 stats you will see it getting lower," he said.

Jeff Lundstrom, a local pot advocate and owner of Skunk Funk, said he 
doesn't believe police are charging fewer people with possession. At 
least once a month someone comes into his store and tells him they've 
been arrested for simple possession, he said.

"I think they are just saying so to sway public opinion," Lundstrom 
said. "(Weighill) is blowing as much smoke as I do every day when I get high."

Lundstrom said he believes all charges relating to pot - everything 
from growing to selling and possessing - should be decriminalized, 
especially given the federal government's promise to legalize 
recreational use by 2017.

"The public doesn't want to see you go to jail for possession and 
consuming marijuana," he said.

Weighill has previously acknowledged that police are living in "grey 
zone" waiting for the government's new marijuana legalization laws. 
Right now pot possession remains a criminal offence and the numbers 
show people in Saskatoon are still getting charged.

Statistics show charges relating to marijuana were down in 2015, 
while charges for other drug offences were up. National police data 
shows a reduction of 15 per cent year-over-year in pot-related 
charges across the country.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom