It's getting to the point where police don't even bother pressing pot
possession charges

Editorial - There is no compelling reason why the federal government should
continue to delay liberalizing marijuana laws and removing the possession
of marijuana as a criminal offence from the Criminal Code.

A successful prosecution for marijuana possession is now unlikely at best,
as the rulings of several Ontario courts have made clear in recent months.
And the medicinal use of marijuana has become so commonplace that courts
readily accept it as a just cause for possession.

Earlier this week a Greater Sudbury man who cultivated marijuana plants in
his home avoided a jail sentence after convincing the court he was using
the drug strictly for his own medicinal needs. Instead he was given a
conditional sentence of nine months house arrest.

Earlier this month two Ontario judges ruled in separate cases that there is
effectively no law prohibiting the possession of small amounts of
marijuana. Another judge said the federal government's policy to allow the
use of pot only for medical reasons is unconstitutional.

Such court decisions have made a mockery of the Criminal Code provisions
that apply to possession, and have raised questions about police and the
courts for using valuable resources to prosecute people for possession of
small amounts of marijuana.

But police and prosecutors in Sudbury insist they will not become more
lenient with people caught with marijuana for personal use until the law
changes.

Until the law changes, anyone caught by city police with even a small
amount of marijuana will be charged, and if convicted, will have a criminal
record, Orsino said. The penalty for first-time offenders generally amounts
to a fine, ranging from $100 to $1,000, he said.

Prime Minister Jean Chretien has promised to relax possession laws by
pulling them from the Criminal Code, and making it a ticketable offence.
This seems to be the logical thing to do, at least for now.

Research in the United States suggests that relaxed laws haven't had much
effect on pot use. The 11 states that issue tickets for possession show no
higher use than states in which it remains criminalized.

As for the contention that smoking pot will lead to hard drugs, the
Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police believe they could actually do a
better job on cracking down on more dangerous drugs and on traffickers if
they could free up resources now used to enforce discredited marijuana
possession laws.

The real debate in the months ahead should not be about whether to go ahead
and reform the laws, or even the principle of decriminalization, but rather
the details of these reforms.

Marijuana remains a vice, like drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes. It
would be better handled through public education and societal norms than
police crackdowns and giving people criminal records. The federal
government should follow through on its promise decriminalize marijuana.


Pubdate: Mon, 03 Feb 2003
Source: Sudbury Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2003 The Sudbury Star
Contact: letters@thesudburystar.com
Website: http://www.thesudburystar.com