POT-POSSESSION CHARGES DOWN BY 30 PER CENT
Police Looking Other Way Due To Confusion Over Canada's Marijuana Laws,
OTTAWA -- The number of people charged with possession of cannabis
fell by 30 per cent last year as police appeared to turn a blind eye
to dope smokers due to uncertainty over Canada's pot laws, Statistics
Canada reported yesterday.
"This drop may have been, in part, a result of a climate of
uncertainty among police, given recent court rulings questioning the
constitutionality of current laws regarding cannabis possession," the
The drop in cannabis charges in 2003 contributed to an overall
8-per-cent drop in drug prosecutions in Canada, the first such decline
Last week, Prime Minister Paul Martin said he plans to reintroduce
legislation this fall that would decriminalize possession of small
quantities of marijuana -- 15 grams or less. A bill to that effect
died when the last election was called.
Police were more likely to use discretion due to the proposed law in
possession cases involving small amounts of pot, said Brian Miller,
chief administrative officer for the Ontario Police
"For a while there, it was hard for us to get convictions because of
the challenges in court," he said. "It's pretty rare for officers to
charge first-time offenders in these cases. There's a lot of
A total of 41,237 marijuana possession charges were reported last
year. Cannabis possession accounts for nearly half of all reported
The report also found that B.C. has the highest rate of drug crimes
among the provinces for the past 20 years. It was the only province to
show an increase (by 6 per cent) in reported drug charges in 2003,
including a 3-per-cent hike in prosecutions of cannabis possession.
Conservative justice critic Vic Toews criticized Ottawa for taking so
long to move on its cannabis reform bill. He said it leaves law
enforcement officers in limbo on how to proceed on marijuana
possession cases involving small amounts as pot laws remain uncertain.
"It results in unequal justice across the country," he said. "It's not
Mr. Toews said the federal government must implement a national drug
strategy if it proceeds with the bill to decriminalize marijuana possession.
Yesterday's report follows a Statscan study released last week that
showed the percentage of Canadians who have admitted using marijuana
almost doubled -- from 6.5 per cent to 12.2 per cent between 1989
The Liberal government wants to decriminalize possession of small
amounts of marijuana and have the offences dealt with through tickets
and fines instead of criminal charges. Supporters argue that simple
possession cases take up too many resources that could be better used
to fight more serious crimes and that the offence does not warrant a
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
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POT-POSSESSION CHARGES DOWN BY 30%