Pubdate: Tue, 26 Dec 2017
Source: Calgary Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network
Author: Kevin Martin
Page: A5


Police use discretion when deciding whether to lay charges for

Despite the Liberal government's plan to legalize marijuana possession
next July, the drug's possession remains illegal.

But while the law is still in place, police officers have discretion
not to lay charges, a senior officer with the Calgary Police Service

Staff Sgt. Mark Hatchette, of the strategic enforcement unit, said
officers have and will continue to have leeway when it comes to pot

"We don't target (simple possession)," Hatchette said in a recent

"But we do utilize those laws to facilitate arrests."

Hatchette said instances of simple possession are fact specific, which
is why officers on the street are given a certain latitude when
dealing with offenders.

"We will definitely use it as grounds for arrest," he said, of
officers using the charge under the Controlled Drugs and Substances
Act to detain suspects.

"Charging is a different thing, so charging will be more of a
discretionary concern."

Hatchette said someone openly consuming marijuana in a public place
and annoying other citizens will be far more likely to be charged than
someone discreetly smoking in private.

"We can attend that location and deal with that complaint," he said of
instances in which Calgarians are reporting public

Police consider simple possession of any drug a "victimless crime," as
it doesn't affect anyone other than the offender, he said.

"We would typically see a 4(1) charge levelled with other charges,"
Hatchette said, citing the CDSA section dealing with possession of a
controlled substance.

The discretion afforded officers working the streets won't be extended
to prosecutors in courtrooms, a government spokeswoman said.

Nathalie Houle, media relations officer with the Public Prosecution
Service of Canada, said as long as cannabis possession is in the CDSA
it will be prosecuted.

"The PPSC continues to prosecute offences under the Controlled Drugs
and Substances Act according to the laws currently in force," Houle
said in an email.

"The cannabis-related offences contained in the Controlled Drugs and
Substances Act have not been amended and continue in force," she said.

Houle said the service only deals with legislation once it's been

"The PPSC cannot speak to the proposed legislation."

She also could not say what changes in drug prosecutions, in terms of
staffing and workloads, might come about as a result of pot being legalized.

"The PPSC cannot speak to the impact the proposed legislation may have
on our service as it is too soon to tell what the impact may be."

Hatchette said it's important to note that despite the federal
government's legalization plans, the law remains on the books.

"It's very polarizing," he said, of those who are for legalization and
those against it.

"Those that are for it are still breaking the law right now," he said
of individuals currently using the drug.

"Regardless of what we think and what we believe, we still have to
enforce the law."

Ultimately, officers always have some discretion when it comes to
laying criminal charges, Hatchette said.

"Specific to drug offences, we have a little more leniency."
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