Pubdate: Tue, 18 Apr 2017
Source: Fort McMurray Today (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 Fort McMurray Today
Author: Kristy Kirkup
Page: A8
Referenced: Cannabis Act:


Currently, kids between 12 and 17 can be charged for having any amount
of marijuana

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 the
ages of 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 noncriminal 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."

He also challenged the suggestion responsibilities have been
downloaded on the provinces.

"Actually, we want to make sure the rules and regulations that are put
in place, in order to be effective, in order to achieve what it is we
want to achieve, they've got to be at the right level of

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.

Toronto-based criminal lawyer Daniel Brown said Monday courts
generally don't prosecute minor marijuana possession charges for
people under or over 18, noting these cases are often dealt through a
diversion program designed to steer them out of the court system.

"Normally, what it takes is someone to do some community service or in
some instances they will make a donation to charity in order to secure
a withdrawal of their charges," Brown said.

The problem is this approach still requires resources to bring these
people into the court system, whether they are young offenders or
adults facing minor marijuana charges.

"By making it not a criminal act, they are going to ensure the
resources that are otherwise spent dealing with these individuals in
the court system can be better used elsewhere, especially given there
are so many cases in the court system that are in jeopardy of being
throw out due to delay," he said.

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 the government did not address the problem sooner.

"It is going to take another 18 months to bring it into effect,"
MacGregor said. "These are provisions that could have been brought in
as an interim measure long ago . ... The federal government had the
ability to act."
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