|Ontario Backs Off Pot Arrests|
Posted by CN Staff on June 08, 2003 at 07:54:15 PT|
By Barry Brown, News Toronto Bureau
Source: Buffalo News
Toronto - For the first time in nearly 100 years, a major Canadian police force will no longer treat possession of marijuana as a criminal offense.
In a statement Friday, Toronto Police Chief Julian Fantino said recent court decisions and a bill in Parliament to decriminalize simple possession have left law enforcement authorities wondering "whether simple possession of marijuana is an offense at all."
Reacting to such questions, Fantino said he has told his officers to stop charging suspects for simple possession of the drug.
Still, pending further clarification by the courts and Parliament, Fantino said police would continue to seize the drug and would record the names of the potential offenders.
But Paul Copeland, a Toronto criminal lawyer, warned that plan could leave police open to lawsuits if the courts decide that possession is legal.
Copeland said that in his opinion, "there is no law in Ontario prohibiting possession of up to 30 grams, or a gram of hashish, for that matter."
Following Fantino's move, Tom Kaye, president of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, suggested that police across the province "use discretion in situations that involve the simple possession of marijuana."
The police chiefs' announcements follow a May 16 ruling by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice that the law banning marijuana possession was no longer valid.
Upholding a lower court decision, Justice Steven Rogin said the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 2001 that the current law was invalid because it provided no exemption for medical use of marijuana. The court gave Canada's government until July 2002 to replace the law, which it failed to do.
With both the courts and some police prepared to act as if possession of marijuana is not illegal, it would be inappropriate for any arrests to made anywhere in Canada, said former Saskatchewan Premier Allan Blakeney, president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
Brian McAllister, a lawyer from Windsor, Ont., whose argument on behalf of a 17-year-old charged with possession led to the appellate court ruling, said the court's decision means the criminal ban on marijuana possession has been "effectively erased."
In Canada, all criminal law is federal. Though the Ontario court ruling is only effective in that province, other provincial courts often follow Ontario's lead.
In the past several years, Canadian courts have attacked the 80-year-old marijuana law as unconstitutional because it banned people from using it, even for proven medical purposes.
Last month, after two Canadian government committees recommended decriminalization of marijuana, Canadian Justice Minister Martin Cauchon introduced a bill that would only fine people for possession of small amounts of marijuana and hashish.
Prime Minister Jean Chretien and his Liberal Party government, which holds a majority of seats in Parliament, back Cauchon's bill. Despite an initial flurry of opposition, the U.S. government has eased off its criticism of Canada's softening attitude toward pot.
Last month, U.S. drug czar John P. Walters indicated the United States was willing to work with Canada and praised Canada's decision to increase penalties for traffickers.
According to Statistics Canada, police in Toronto filed 6,122 charges for possession of marijuana in 2001, the latest year for which figures are available.
Related Articles & Web Site:
Cannabis News Canadian Links
Police Backing Off on Pot
Arresting Pot Smokers Not Worth The Effort
Feds Seek To Plug Pot Hole
|Comment #4 posted by TecHnoCult on June 09, 2003 at 08:50:06 PT|
|Thank you further for taking the time to talk to those that oppose your point of view, especially a LEO. You never know, but you may have planted a seed with that LEO. It may grow and even reproduce!|
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|Comment #3 posted by FoM on June 08, 2003 at 22:03:04 PT|
|Thank you for saying that CNews is your favorite site. That made me smile.|
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|Comment #2 posted by ErikGhint on June 08, 2003 at 10:30:59 PT|
|No body even looks at regulation as an option. I live in Toronto, and on Thursday their were several police cars at my school. I found this to be the perfect opportunity to start debating the cops. I first proceed to ask them if they are looking at cannabis possession any differently due to the recent court cases, they claimed they were unaware any such court casses had occured, they claimed the police department did not tell them to act any differently in regards to possession, and they also claimed that the law does not change until the government passes legislation. Now he was purely wrong about everything! First off, the courts have final say in all matters and do indeed have the power to overrule a law. The funny thing is right after i talked to these cops, i came home, opened up my favourite site cannabisnews and see an article saying the chief of police of Toronto has advised the cops to stop arresting people for possession, it was quite humorous.|
Another thing that annoyed me is the fact that these cops virtually have no knowlede on the subject. Obviously if you have a prohibitionist argue against an activist, the prohibitionist will always loose as they have no valid arguments, but he kept saying it should be illeagle because of all the criminal elements involved. I told him i absolutly agree criminals are no good and detrimental to society, so we should regulate cannabis like we do with alcohol and tobacco, and that will take it off the black market. He said i was wrong, and if we regulate it their will be more criminals? I explained to him that when its regulated the price goes down and thus no profit for criminals. He still disagreed. He proceeded to say all drugs are health risks and we do not need another drug on the streets. (Saying all this while he is enjoying his chewing tobbacoo)Obviously he had no facts to prove his point. He started talking about the problems with driving, and I told him about the studies that said driving after ingesting cannabis actually caused the driver to be more cautious. Again he had no valid response, but he is an officer of the law therefore he is right and I am wrong.
Just thought I would share that with you guys.
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|Comment #1 posted by Duzt on June 08, 2003 at 10:07:29 PT|
|Why can't the GD media ever get anything right? Every article I've read has said that the Senate report called for decriminalization, which it didn't because that never works. The report called for LEGALIZATION, a regulated market. I'm tired of hearing about decrim because it does absolutely nothing to remove the dealers from the picture and still makes buying, growing or selling a crime. Nobody will talk about regulation (legalization) because they just don't have a clue.|
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