Ticketing for pot is a good idea, says Halifax chief
Chief Jean-Michel Blais says proposal would give officers discretion, free up court time
Halifax Regional Police Chief Jean-Michel Blais says he's in favour of reforming drug laws in the country to give officers the power to simply ticket people found with small amounts of marijuana rather than having them charged under the Criminal Code.
Earlier this month, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police met in Winnipeg and its members voted on whether officers should have the ability to ticket people found with 30 grams of marijuana or less.
Blais and other chiefs voted overwhelmingly in favour of reforming the laws and their recommendation will be forwarded to the federal government.
Blais said he voted in favour because right now, officers have only two choices: turn a blind eye or lay down the law.
"You got two individuals in a park who are just sitting there. One has an open beer, the other one is smoking a joint and that's all that individual has is a single joint. The individual who is drinking the open beer is given a ticket and the beer is confiscated," Blais told CBC Radio's Information Morning.
"The other individual is charged, arrested, brought in. That takes a lot of time and resources and at the end of the day, especially if it's a first offence, what do they get? Probably less than the ticket for the person who had the open booze."
Some advocates for marijuana use applauded the police chiefs' move and said the ticket system amounts to decriminalization because it diminishes the seriousness of the offence.
Others argued the chiefs should've gone one step further and decriminalize pot smoking altogether.
But Peter MacKay, the federal Justice Minister, said there are no plans in the works to legalize or decriminalize marijuana. Though MacKay had no follow up on the chiefs' recommendation, he said he appreciates their input.
Blais said the most important thing for him is applying the law.
"The biggest thing people will ask me, 'Am I for criminalization or not?' What I'm for is applying the law of the land," he said.
"When you, me, the people that are listening to this program today and everybody else across the country decide that they want to elect a government in there that is going to legalize marijuana and do other modifications to the Criminal Code and other social modifications, then at that point as police officers we're obliged to follow and to apply the rules of law."