Pubdate: Sat, 15 Apr 2017
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Marcus Sibley
Page: D7
Referenced: Cannabis Act:


Minister concedes current law is a mess, says

Bill C-45, also referred to as the Cannabis Act, outlines the federal
government's "robust regulatory framework" for legal marijuana.

It makes several amendments to the Criminal Code, including provisions
aimed at loosening penalties around possession and home cultivation
(for personal use) as well as tightening laws that address impaired
driving and youth access to marijuana.

Government officials did not comment this week on the specifics of how
provinces will execute a distribution plan, how cannabis will be
taxed, and what kinds of revenues are expected to be generated.

Yet despite the lack of specifics, the government has not wavered on
its commitment to continue enforcing cannabis-related offences,
upholding the position that the "law is the law" and rejecting the
possibility of any moratorium on marijuana charges.

Despite this firm stance on continued criminalization, Public Safety
Minister Ralph Goodale called the current regime of criminalizing
cannabis an "abject failure."

The influx of marijuana-related offences not only clog our Canadian
courts, they create a significant burden on local police departments,
which spend a combined total of anywhere between $2 billion and $3
billion on enforcement. Yet Goodale wants to see the existing laws
enforced until the bill passes.

"As the bill moves through the legislative process, existing laws
prohibiting possession and use of cannabis remain in place, and they
need to be respected," he said. "This must be an orderly transition;
it is not a free-for-all."

Opting for an "evidence-informed approach" to marijuana, the Liberal
government's growing mantra is that policy should be rooted in
calculated expertise, not fervour.

But Justin Trudeau and his team of "experts" continue to dangerously
mix rational policy objectives with emotionally driven and morally
laden rhetoric.

Asked this week in Question Period if the prime minister felt he
"deserved" a criminal record for his previous marijuana use, Trudeau
simply restated his position that the continued enforcement of
existing drug laws is the way to curb organized crime and keep
marijuana out of the hands of children, going on to say marijuana is
the drug easiest to obtain by youth. This statement turns out to be
patently false.

It remains unclear how the Liberals intends to deal with youth who
consume and possess cannabis, but the fact remains that the criminal
justice system only serves a punitive function, not an educational
one. Punishing both youth and adults with criminal records or other
criminal justice sanctions carries a long-lasting stigma with
far-reaching consequences - something Trudeau had the privilege of
avoiding while he used cannabis.

The Cannabis Act also intends to strictly regulate how cannabis can be
legally produced and distributed. This anxiety over who will be able
to produce "legal" pot has raised concern, especially with those
deeply rooted in the cannabis movement.

Pioneers of the Canadian cannabis movement have seen their pot shops
raided in the last several months, a targeted effort by local police
to effectively shut down unlicensed dispensaries. Officers enter
dispensaries wearing balaclavas, arresting and charging frontline
employees with trafficking offences, and seizing small quantities of
cannabis and money. It's likely that this will remain the trend until

Such use of policing resources sends a clear message: Pot profits are
for the corporate elites. Local growers and dispensaries are most
likely going to have to continue to push back against the Canadian
weed oligopoly. Legalization may provide the necessary infrastructure
for "legitimate" revenue for a select few, but the government and
licensed producers will still have to face competition with a growing
market of unlicensed dispensaries.

With almost 60,000 possession arrests in 2015, what are we to expect
in the year leading to legalization? More arrests? More criminal
records? Trudeau owes Canadians an apology for a long and damaging
legacy of marijuana prohibition. Legalization does not just mean
restricting access, it means acknowledging and addressing the harms of
disproportionate policing and owning up to the senseless use of the
criminal justice system.

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Marcus A. Sibley is a PhD candidate in the Department of Law and Legal 
Studies at Carleton University. His research largely focuses on 
gendered-based violence, policing and processes of criminal regulation 
in Canada.
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