Pubdate: Tue, 18 Apr 2017
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Hamilton Spectator
Author: Kristy Kirkup
Page: A8
Referenced: Cannabis Act:


OTTAWA - The federal government has tailored its highly anticipated
marijuana legislation to ensure younger teens don't wind up with
criminal records for pot possession.

Currently, people between 12 and 17 can be charged for having any
amount of marijuana, but the newly tabled legislation proposes that
people under age 18 would not face criminal prosecution for possessing
or sharing up to five grams.

Bill Blair, a Liberal MP working with federal ministers on the
legislation, said Monday the ultimate goal is to give provinces and
territories flexibility to prohibit young people from possessing any
amount of cannabis, with the option to introduce non-criminal
sanctions for having a small amount.

"There are far better ways to deal with those offences that don't
result in a criminal record, which are quite frankly more
straightforward to enforce, less onerous to enforce, less costly to
enforce but also achieve a much better social outcome by not giving
those kids a criminal record," he said.

Provinces could bring in a regulatory ticketing system - much like the
one in Ontario for those under 19 caught purchasing, possessing or
drinking alcohol, he noted.

This requires "basic regulation" for the provinces, said Blair, a
former Toronto police chief.

"I'm not minimizing the amount of work that needs to be done," he
said. "This is pretty straightforward ... I've enforced those laws for
40 years so I'm familiar with how they work."

The possession changes are among the many issues Ottawa and the
provinces and territories need to iron out before marijuana is
legalized next year including distribution, licensing and retail sales.

NDP justice critic Alistair MacGregor said Monday he very much agrees
that criminal sanctions for marijuana possession can have detrimental
impacts, particularly for young people, but he expressed frustration
about why government did not address the problem sooner.

"These are provisions that could have been brought in as an interim
measure long ago," MacGregor said.
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