HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html RCMP
Pubdate: Mon, 15 Mar 2004
Source: Edmonton Sun (CN AB)
Copyright: 2004, Canoe Limited Partnership.
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


OTTAWA (CP) -- The federal plan to decriminalize possession of small 
amounts of marijuana could increase policing costs, not reduce them as many 
predict, according to internal RCMP notes. The revelation is among several 
uncertainties and reservations regarding the proposed pot bill spelled out 
in newly disclosed briefing materials prepared by the national police force.

The Mounties take issue with the oft-repeated assertion that the existing 
pot law is enforced unevenly across Canada, and express concern about some 
elements of the new legislative package.

Several pages of RCMP notes, compiled from May through December of last 
year, were obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

The latest statistics show police laid a record number of drug-related 
charges in 2002, with 75 per cent of the 93,000 incidents involving pot.

Under the bill currently before Parliament, possessing 15 grams or less of 
marijuana - about 15 to 20 joints - would no longer be a criminal matter 
but a ticketing offence, punishable by a fine of $150 for an adult or $100 
for a youth.

Some advocates argue the legislative proposals will free up valuable police 
time for more serious matters, but the Mounties remain to be convinced.

"Police do not see these reforms as resulting in cost savings to them," say 
the RCMP notes.

"Which way the volume of marijuana offences will go is difficult to say.

"It may result in cost savings or it may result in cost increases."

The Mounties believe a key factor would be how many of the tickets issued 
under the new proposals end up being challenged.

"If a large percentage of the tickets issued were contested in court and 
police officers were called to testify, our costs might actually increase."

In consultations with federal officials, the Mounties supported the idea of 
ticketing provisions for marijuana possession, the notes add, but only if 
police officers would be able to retain the current option of issuing a 
summons to appear in criminal court for even very small quantities.

This would be reserved for cases in which "aggravating factors" made the 
option of a criminal charge more appropriate.

Currently, growing marijuana is a single offence, punishable by up to seven 
years in prison.

The bill proposes four separate offences, with punishments ranging from a 
fine of $5,000 for being caught with one to three plants to 14 years behind 
bars for cultivating 50 or more.
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