Source: Nelson Daily News (CN BC)
COURTS ASKED TO WAIT FOR MARIJUANA DECRIMINALIZATION
Local lawyer requests that a provincial court judge postpone sentencing of
individuals busted with 15 gams of pot or less
A Provincial Court judge was asked to postpone sentencing individuals busted
with small amounts of pot until Parliament resumes, in the event that the
decriminalization bill gets the green light.
"Simply this isn't a sound basis for an adjournment," Crown prosecutor Rob
Brown told Judge R. Fabbro in Nelson Provincial Court on August 24.
Brown's statement came after defense lawyer Don Skogstad asked Fabbro to
postpone the sentencing of some of his clients until Parliament resumes
sitting in October. This would enable them to see if the legislation on
marijuana decriminalization of minor quantities passes.
"This is a province that does charge people with under 15 grams, a
surprising number of them," Skogstad told the Daily News, adding that at
present he has a half-dozen cases where clients have been busted with 15
grams of less.
The local lawyer, who spends a substantial amount of time defending those
with drug charges, said it would be benefit to both the courts, police and
clients if Bill C-10 passes come October. Prime Minister Paul Martin has
already indicated that the government is committed to reintroducing the
legislation this fall.
"There's no downside at all when you look at it," said Skogstad.
(continued p. 6 - "Police tend to focus on grow ops")
You don't get a record. They can't tell the Americans about it. You can't
be put in jail. It's a set fine."
At present, the best that those charged with possession of marijuana can do
is get a discharge, said Skogstad.
"It's not a record in Canada but it's available to the Americans," he
Skogstad said he wasn't surprised to see Brown object to possibly postponing
the sentencing of those charged with possession of small amounts of
"The Crown is acting strictly to the policy of the Crown," he said. "They're
not to adjourn for a change in law."
Cst. Tom Clark, the RCMP's regional coordinator of the DARE (Drug Abuse
Resistance Education) program, said he thinks the decriminalization bill, if
passed, will send a "bad message" to kids.
"As far as I'm concerned I don't like the message it sends to the kids
because the kids are the ones we care about. Adults do whatever and we
don't have much control over that," Clar
k told the Daily News.
"But for kids, I think it's just adding another vice to an already
vice-ridden society. We've already got our skeletons in our closet and I
don't see the necessity to add to it."
Clark said he was "surprised" to hear that Skogstad has so many cases of
clients being busted with less than 15 grams of weed.
"I don't know anybody who would charge for that anymore," he said. "I know
guys aren't cruising around the 7-11 trying to bust a kid with a joint.
They just don't do that."
Clark said because police are deciding more often not to charge those with
under 15 grams, that's not to say they approve of its possession. They're
just targeting other crimes such as grow ops.
"The reality of it is the members have a finite amount of time and they have
difficulty getting to all the grow op files," said the Mountie.
"I was in downtown Vancouver for 15 years doing drug work and I never once
went out of my way to jump some kid with a joint. There's just so many
other big files out there that doing this is a waste of time. It's kind of
funny that that's the perception of what we used to do.
Under most circumstances, police generally won't bust people with small
amounts of pot unless they are, for example, charged with another offense
and a subsequent search of the accused turns up bud.
"Certainly there's nobody out there wasting their time jumping people for
small amounts of marijuana. The only time you'd really do that is if it's
right in your face - and some characters do that. They're walking down
Baker Street smoking a joint. If they were drinking beer people would be
While Clark says the decriminalization of marijuana would send a poor
message to youth, he feels it would make police officers jobs less complex.
"It certainly would make life easier for the members," he said.
The Liberal government will bring back Bill C-10, which died when the
election was called. It already had received its first two readings.
However, it will have to go through first reading again if it is
According to the original bill, anyone caught with 15 grams of marijuana or
less would receive a ticket instead of criminal charges. But those caught
trafficking more than that amount would receive stiffer penalties.