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Harper says Trudeau is ‘promoting marijuana use for children’ but leaves door open to tickets for possession
Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is "promoting marijuana use for our children," but also suggested the government is open to exploring new enforcement options for possession, such as a fine.
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
August 29, 2013
3:15 PM EDT
January 25, 2015
6:00 PM EST
Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is “promoting marijuana use for our children,” but also suggested the government is open to exploring new enforcement options for possession, such as a fine.
Trudeau’s confession last week that he smoked marijuana three years ago as an MP, combined with his signature policy plank of legalizing the drug, has brought the issue back to the forefront of the public agenda.
“I think Mr. Trudeau’s actions display poor judgment … and I look at the contrast with him promoting marijuana use for our children versus yesterday saying he will have no economic policy for several years,” Harper said a Toronto news conference promoting his government’s child protection laws.
“Our priority as a government is not encouraging the spread of drugs, it’s encouraging job creation.”
But Harper also said his government is “looking carefully” at the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police proposal to ticket people caught with 30 grams or less of cannabis. The Chiefs suggested prosecuting people for simple possession is expensive and that a criminal record places barriers on future travel, employment and citizenship.
The police chiefs said in a statement that they did not approve of “decriminalization.” However, fines without a criminal record may sound that way to a lot of Canadians.
“I don’t believe Canadian Chiefs of Police proposed these options because they don’t believe in the laws, in the contrary, they believe this option is a better approach in terms of enforcement of the law and the government is certainly looking at their proposal very carefully,” Harper said to a reporter’s question.
Timothy Smith, spokesperson for the CACP, said he was “pleased” that Harper recognized that his group wants “more policing tools to deal with this issue,” rather than getting bogged down in the decriminalization verses legalization debate.
Smith says from a policing perspective there is growing support for a ticketing option available to officers.
“If you are following this issue you are seeing police chiefs come out everywhere in support of this,” he said. “When we brought this out it was because we were looking at efficiencies within the justice system and within law enforcement and we saw too much effort put into this area. “
Under the proposal, police officers would be able to ticket a person smoking pot in public — the same way they can for someone drinking a beer in the park. The current laws would stay in the books, meaning small marijuana possession would not be “decriminalized” technically.
But decriminalization advocates say the ticketing option only results in the increased criminalization of pot possession.
“They are not looking to replace arrests with tickets, they are looking to have both options,” Dana Larsen of Sensible BC, a group working to decriminalize simple marijuana possession in that province, said.
“The result of putting such a scheme in place will be all those people currently getting off with warnings will get tickets. It’s not progressive, it’s about finding other ways to punish marijuana users because they can’t afford to arrest and incarcerate us all.”
Larsen said he was encouraged by the federal Liberal leader’s legalization proposal, but said it was unlikely that any prime minister would make it a priority. He said changes to the law would likely have to come from the people, similar to Colorado and Washington’s referendum-based drug reforms.
Sensible BC is pushing for a provincial referendum on the “Sensible Policing Act,” a bill that would effectively decriminalize simple marijuana possession in the province. The drug would be legally treated similarly to alcohol as far as teenage use is concerned. Mr. Larsen says the group has the support of at least 100,000 people in B.C. and 350,000 are needed to get the bill on the ballet.
The eventual goal of the Sensible Policing Act is to prepare B.C for the legalization of marijuana, effectively treating it the same way wine is now.
Harper’s door-opening comment came as Trudeau was on the defensive over a new study that suggests marijuana may be much worse for teens’ health than previously thought.
A new study released by the Universite de Montréal and New York’s Icahn School of Medicine earlier this week says the teenage brain makes marijuana use particularly problematic, leading to greater chance of addictive behaviours.
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
But speaking in P.E.I. Thursday, Trudeau said that he agrees that pot is bad for kids, but it doesn’t contradict his proposed plan.
“I have said very clearly that the legalization is going to be a path that actually allows us to keep it out of the hands of teens who right now have easier access to buying marijuana than they do to alcohol or cigarettes,” he said. ------撒谎！！！
“And that is where the current approach that Mr. Harper has on the war on drugs is not working, where we’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars every year on a plan that is not keeping marijuana out of the hands of our teens and instead incarcerating and giving criminal records to hundreds of thousands of Canadians over the past few years in a way that is not useful in any way in keeping marijuana out of the hands of our kids.”
The Liberal plan could be a political winner for Canada’s third-ranking party. A new Forum poll showed Trudeau trending upwards after his drug admission and that more than two-thirds of Canadians support either decriminalization or legalization for small amounts of marijuana.
Since Trudeau’s pot admission, politicians around the country have been asked about their own experience, Harper being no exception.
“My answer to that is: Do I seem like I smoke marijuana?” Harper said to laughs Thursday, before adding that his childhood asthma left him unable to smoke anything.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne told reporters Wednesday she smoked infrequently in her youth, not for at least 35 years. N.S. Premier Darrell Dexter also said he tried marijuana as a university student in the 1970s.
After months of stonewalling on his alleged use of that other drug, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford seemed downright jubilant to talk about his significant — that’s in his estimation — pot use.
“Oh yeah,” he said nonchalantly Wednesday when asked if he had ever smoked pot.
“I won’t deny that,” he said with a smile as he walked away. “I smoked a lot of it.”
With files from The Canadian Press
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