By Phillip Smith
Canada's police chiefs are ready to quit arresting people for marijuana possession. Meeting in Winnipeg over the weekend, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police passed a resolution recommending "an expansion of enforcement options" to deal with pot possession offenses.
The "enforcement option" they have in mind is issuing tickets instead of criminal charges. That sounds a whole lot like decriminalization, even though CACP denies it.
"The current process of sending all simple possession of cannabis cases under the Controlled Drug and Substances Act to criminal court is placing a significant burden on the entire Justice system from an economic and resource utilization perspective," said CACP President Chief Constable Jim Chu in a statement announcing the passage of the resolution.
"The CACP is not in support of decriminalization or legalization of cannabis in Canada," Chu continued. "It must be recognized, however, that under the current legislation the only enforcement option for police, when confronted with simple possession of cannabis, is either to turn a blind eye or lay charges. The latter ensues a lengthy and difficult process which, if proven guilty, results in a criminal conviction and criminal record."
More than 50,000 Canadians are arrested each year on marijuana charges, the vast majority for simple possession.
Canada's Liberals toyed with marijuana law reform when they held national power a decade ago, proposing a ticketing scheme similar to that now recommended by the top cops, but failed to push it through. The ruling Conservatives, on the other hand, have moved to toughen marijuana penalties.
Federal Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau has this year called for legalization. That puts him in line with the Canadian public, which consistently returns majorities for legalization in national polls.