Police chiefs suggest tickets for pot possession instead of criminal charges

WINNIPEG – Police chiefs meeting in Winnipeg say handing out tickets for illegal possession of marijuana may be more efficient than laying criminal charges.

Delegates to the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police annual meeting have passed a resolution that says officers need more “enforcement options” to deal with people caught with pot.

Association president Jim Chu says in a release that criminal charges place a significant burden on police and court resources.

Chu, who is chief constable of the Vancouver Police Service, also points out that a conviction results in a criminal record that places barriers on future travel, employment and citizenship.

He says the association does not support legalization of marijuana.

The resolution was presented by the association’s drug abuse committee.

“The CACP is not in support of decriminalization or legalization of cannabis in Canada,” Chu said in a release Tuesday. “It must be recognized, however, that under the current legislation the only enforcement option for police, when confronted with simple possession of cannabis, is either to turn a blind eye or lay charges.

“The latter ensues a lengthy and difficult process which, if proven guilty, results in a criminal conviction and criminal record.”

Justice Minister Peter MacKay said in an email that the 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 committee’s report says 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.

But the report adds the “large majority” of simple possession cases could be more efficiently dealt with through tickets.