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Canada Mulling Cannabis Law Changes, Eh


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Federal laws on marijuana possession could soon get a major facelift.




Proposal means those caught with small amounts of marijuana would get ticketed, not charged

By Trinh Theresa Do, CBC News Posted: Mar 05, 2014 11:20 AM ET Last Updated: Mar 05, 2014 2:57 PM ET


The Conservative government is looking at potentially changing policy to allow police officers to issue tickets to people caught with small amounts of marijuana, rather than lay charges.

Justice Minister Peter MacKay told reporters on Parliament Hill Wednesday morning he has tasked the justice department "with looking at and coming forward with what could be a draft legislation." 

"We have not arrived on the exact mechanism in which that could be done. The prime minister has signalled an openness to this," he said.

However, MacKay is making it clear that this is not decriminalization or legalization of marijuana, but "giving police further discretion" when it comes to small amounts of pot.

"The Criminal Code offences would still be available to police, but we would look at options that would give police the ability, much like the treatment of open liquor, that would allow police to ticket those types of offences," he said.

MacKay said he met with Vancouver's police chief, as well as several other chiefs, who "seem to be very favourably inclined." 

"So it is under serious consideration," MacKay said.

In contrast, MacKay's office said only yesterday it had "nothing new to add at this point" regarding possible changes to the laws on marijuana.

"As was stated previously, our government would look at the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police’s proposal to ticket small amounts of marijuana," was the response to a CBC News query.

Though the government is now considering softening up rules around marijuana possession, not long ago the Conservatives passed legislation to toughen laws on marijuana possession for the purpose of trafficking.

In 2012, the Safe Streets and Communities Act came into force and included legislating a mandatory six-month jail term for growing as few as six marijuana plants, as well as increasing minimum jail time to two years if individuals are caught trafficking near a school.

Charges not in public interest, say police chiefs

Canadian police chiefs support a ticketing system for small amounts of pot possession, which they adopted as a resolution at a meeting in Winnipeg last August. 

The resolution states for simple marijuana possession of  30 grams or less, "a formal criminal charge pursuant to the CDSA would not be in the public interest" and places "a significant burden on the entire justice system." 

"A police officer’s ability to exercise discretion is an underlying principle of the Canadian justice system," the resolution reads.

"Having varying options for addressing simple possession of cannabis situations enhances a police officer’s ability to more effectively and efficiently deal with the circumstances they are confronted with on the front line."

Currently, under the Controlled Drug and Substances Act of the Criminal Code of Canada, a person found guilty of possession of small amounts of marijuana can be jailed up to five years. A first-time offender could be fined up to $1,000 or face up to six months in jail.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau brought the ongoing marijuana debate back to the forefront last summer when he came out in favour of legalizing pot, as well as admitting to having smoked it since being elected to the House of Commons.

The Conservatives reacted swiftly and furiously, decrying Trudeau's "profound lack of judgment" and calling him "a poor example for all Canadians, particularly young ones."

Trudeau responded that it was "an example where we have a government that is completely offside from public opinion."

With files from Alison Crawford and Madeleine Blais-Morin

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 Let's legalize people to have small amounts but still bust anyone who produces, traffics, etc.  How see thru is that?  Everyone can have a little but it's supposed to appear out of thin air?  I'd use that as a defense if anything ever happened as entrapment.  Your allowing a market and busting anyone lured into supplying it.

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