Differing Minds 

Differing Minds 
Posted by CN Staff on June 19, 2003 at 11:49:41 PT
By Martin Patriquin 
Source: Hour Magazine 
Officially, Montreal police are still coming down hard on the city's tokers. But as Hour finds out, the beat cop reality is very different. In Montreal, the official police line is simple. Possession of marijuana - whether it's one, five or 200 grams - is a criminal offence, and offenders will get charged accordingly. "The decriminalization law hasn't passed, so for us it's the same deal as it has always been," said Guy Coupal of the Montreal police. "It's like when the province changed the 'right on reds' law. Before, it was an infraction. The next day it wasn't. The people who did it before got tickets."
But talk to a experienced beat cop, as Hour did this week, and you'll get another story entirely, one that is far more nuanced and (dare we say it) a little more realistic than the official hard-and-fast police edict on marijuana."Julie" (not her real name) has been working the streets for the past two years in a northern part of the city. (She didn't want us to print which part "because there are so few women in the district," she says.) She says the decision whether or not to charge someone with simple possession isn't up to police policy, but rather individual officer discretion. And you'd be surprised to know that many police officers - including Julie herself - want to see the drug not only decriminalized, but made legal altogether. Why? Often it's a matter of time, since an arrest means as much as two hours of paperwork for the officers - "Two hours where we're not on the job," Julie says.Apart from this, though, is a sense of reality among police officers that has yet to make it to the top brass: Busting people for simple possession simply isn't worth it. "In general, if we catch an adult smoking a joint, we could care less. It doesn't really bother us. Where it starts being a problem is when children are involved."It depends a lot on the attitude of the person," she continues. "If the person we stop has an arrogant attitude, we'll do the two hours of paperwork and make an arrest. But usually if we see a youth who has no criminal record, it's a nice kid, we'll give them a break and throw his or her pot away... Most of the time we don't charge young people [16- to 17-year-olds] anymore. It's rare. We know that we spend two hours doing up the dossier, and when it goes to court the prosecutor has nothing. Usually, we'll just take the drugs, have them destroyed or, so that the person doesn't think I'm keeping them for myself, I throw them in a canal or the river."Even the question of how much pot, exactly, is deemed simple possession is debatable. Though the official police rule is less than 30 grams, Julie say she has let people go with little more than a warning even though they've had nearly 50 grams of pot on them. "We've even caught people with between 30 and 50 grams, and they didn't have a lot of money on them, no pager, no way to weigh it, and we call in and [the drug section] says there's no way we could get a trafficking charge."It's not difficult to get drugs in Montreal. Berri metro, St-Denis Square, the Tam-Tams. These days, people aren't shy about selling... We know that there are a ton of dealers at Berri metro. St-Denis Square is the same, and everyone knows that. Police know it, and they hassle them from time to time, but the reality is police get a lot of calls and we can't always take care of the small dealers. We focus on the bigger players. Hassling smaller players isn't a waste of time, but..."Judging from what Julie says, it seems the Montreal police - the ones we see on the street every day, that is - practice far more harm-reduction techniques than their bosses are willing to admit. In fact, Julie's boss would probably have a fit if they heard one of their own say the following: "[Pot] should be legal. We could control the product and what's in it, and make sure people aren't smoking garbage. I make an arrest [for possession], there's two hours we're not on the job. What's the point?"Source: Hour Magazine (CN QU)Author: Martin PatriquinPublished: June 19, 2003Copyright: 2003 Communications Voir Inc.Website: letters afterhour.comRelated Articles & Web Site:Cannabis News Canadian Links Mellow Out Backing Off on Pot Pot Smokers Not Worth The Effort 
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Comment #2 posted by freedom fighter on June 19, 2003 at 17:45:05 PT
What the heck!
I'll bet that there be some cops who would happend to stop someone for smoking pot and join the fun.pazff
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Comment #1 posted by JR Bob Dobbs on June 19, 2003 at 12:36:36 PT
The PDF file below is a pamphlet which effectively explains the latest on the issue in a handy, easy-to-print-out-and-pass-along kind of format. The info is timely, and the method of distribution couldn't be simpler!
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