Smoking a joint in a public place is no more serious than drinking a beer in public — and should usually result in either a verbal warning or a provincial ticket. So say Canada’s police chiefs.
“A ticketing scheme would ensure a consequence that more closely reflects the public interest,” the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) says in a media release. A motion to that effect was ratified at the CACP Annual General Meeting in Winnipeg, last week.
Under the current law, police must choose between turning a blind eye or laying a serious charge for simple possession, triggering a lengthy process that may end in a criminal conviction and criminal record for the accused.
The group does not support decriminalization or legalization. It urges the addition of a CDSA ticket option through the Federal Contraventions Act for simple possession of cannabis. That would plant the offence squarely within the paralegal scope of practice, as such matters are dealt with under the Provincial Offences Act.
“The current process of sending all simple possession of cannabis cases pursuant to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) to criminal court is placing a significant burden on the entire Justice System from an economic and resource utilization perspective,” the organization says.
Benefits of a ticket option include:
- It expands the range of enforcement options available to more effectively and efficiently address the illicit possession of cannabis while maintaining the ability to lay formal court process charges;
- It reduces the burden on policing and judicial resources and provides significantly greater economies and efficiencies; and,
- By using a ticket under the CDSA – Contraventions Act, an individual can avoid receiving a criminal record which can place significant barriers on travel, obtaining employment, bonding and citizenship.
CACP Drug Abuse Committee Chair Chief Mark Mander says “The CACP believes the illicit use of cannabis has a negative impact on public safety and the health of young persons. By adding this additional policing tool, however, we are proposing a responsible public safety initiative that will be of overall benefit to all Canadians.”
Health Canada has taken measures to change regulations related to the production and distribution of marijuana for medicinal purposes, the chiefs noted.
In 2007, there were 100,675 police-reported drug offences in Canada; 62,510 were cannabis-related, and the rate of youth accused of drug offences doubled in 10 years, according to Statistics Canada.