Pubdate: Tue, 11 Apr 2017
Source: Calgary Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network
Author: Rob Breakenridge
Page: A9


With legalization near and courts jammed, why are people still being

In sharp contrast to last year, marijuana activist Dana Larsen's
latest visit to Calgary ended up being uneventful, at least from a law
enforcement perspective.

As part of Larsen's cross-country Overgrow Canada tour, he was handing
out marijuana seeds to those in attendance at Friday's event. Police
were briefly present, but left without incident.

It's certainly understandable why police would avoid making a fuss.
For one thing, there are numerous places in Calgary where marijuana
seeds can be obtained. If Calgary police are going to turn a blind eye
to that, it wouldn't make sense to start arresting people at Larsen's
event. Moreover, there's the additional hassle of having to prove that
these are, in fact, viable marijuana seeds.

Of course, there are two much larger issues at play here. One is the
fact that we may be just days away from legislation being tabled to
finally legalize marijuana. The other is that delays in Alberta's
court system have become rather acute. For those two reasons alone,
marijuana arrests should not be a priority.

Despite the fact that common sense prevailed Friday night, that wasn't
the case last year. In fact, Larsen will have to make a return visit
to our city next month, as he is set to face a preliminary hearing on
charges of trafficking marijuana and of possession for the purpose of

It probably doesn't help the case against him that police decided to
shrug and go home when the accused came back and did the same thing
that precipitated the charges in the first place. It's hard to imagine
another scenario where police would respond accordingly.

As police noted last year, "under the Canadian Controlled Drugs and
Substances Act, it is illegal to distribute marijuana in any form,
regardless of whether payment is provided."

So if it was serious enough last year that police felt compelled to
lay charges, how is it that precisely the same thing was so unserious
that police simply went home? Or, conversely, why the need for such a
heavy-handed response last year?

Even though Calgary was the only city where charges were laid on the
Overgrow Canada tour, this is obviously not just a Calgary problem.

To illustrate the absurd lengths some police forces are still willing
to go, the day after Larsen's Calgary stop, RCMP in Hanna were
executing a search warrant on a home there. A subsequent news release
the following day boasted of the fact that a single marijuana plant
(yes, one lone plant), in addition to some growing equipment, was seized.

Is that then to say that everyone who took home some seeds from
Larsen's event might expect police to come break down their door in
the weeks and months ahead?

It does appear that marijuana-related arrests have slowed down since
the Liberals took power in 2015, but tens of thousands of Canadians
are still being charged each year. And what exactly are these charges

There doesn't appear to be any measurable deterrent effect, and at
this point, with legalization looming, why should there be?

Moreover, in the case of marijuana possession, who is the victim of
this crime in the first place? There's little reason why this should
be a priority.

As a report last year from the C.D. Howe Institute noted, "the
criminalization of marijuana may have resulted in a significant waste
of police and judicial resources." That's even more true now. When the
Conservatives got elected on a promise to scrap the long-gun registry,
they implemented an amnesty for gun owners until the promise could be

It would obviously have made little sense to continue prosecuting
people for something that the government didn't believe to be a crime
and would soon no longer be a crime at all.

The Liberals should have done the same thing here.

Given the mess it's created, legalization can't happen fast enough.
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