SYDNEY — Cape Breton Regional Police Chief Peter McIsaac is on board with a recommendation to issue tickets for small amounts of illegal marijuana.
© TC Media photo
Cape Breton Regional Police Chief Peter McIsaac
The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police ratified a resolution Tuesday that seeks more enforcement options to deal with people caught with pot.
McIsaac, who represents Nova Scotia chiefs on the association board, said having additional options such as tickets would help free up the courts and save officers time.
"It's not about the legalization or decriminalization of cannabis — that's not what we're standing for at all here," said McIsaac.
Pressing criminal charges for marijuana possession places a "significant burden" on the justice system, said McIsaac.
"It's costing a great deal of money and it's a very slow and long and cumbersome process, quite frankly," said McIsaac.
McIsaac said police officers can issue a summary offence ticket to young people caught with a single beer, but must start criminal proceedings for a young person caught with a joint.
"There's only two things the officer can do," he said. "One is give a warning and walk away, or two is to go under the Controlled Drug and Substances Act to lay a criminal charge. And to do that you have to seize the evidence, you have to create an exhibit package, you have to send it off to Health Canada to make sure it's actually cannabis."
After following all these protocols and procedures, most offenders only receive small punishment, said McIsaac.
McIsaac said there are circumstances where a formal charge for simple possession is appropriate, for example, if a driver who has been pulled over is found to be smoking a joint.
Justice Minister Peter MacKay said in an email to the Cape Breton Post that the federal government has no plans to legalize or decriminalize marijuana.
“We appreciate the input of the chiefs of police on these important matters. I need to be clear here that our government has no intention of legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana. These drugs are illegal because of the harmful effects they have on users — and on society for that matter. As a government we have a responsibility to protect the interests of families across this country."
The Canadian Association of Police Chiefs says a person who has a criminal record for marijuana possession faces barriers on future travel, employment and citizenship. A ticket under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act would avoid that record.