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Marijuana tickets would reduce justice system costs, Vancouver police chief says

Mathew (last name withheld) rolls a joint (also know as marijuana, weed, grass, pot, chronic, joint, blunt, herb, cannabis, hashish, Mary Jane) at Victory Square in Vancouver's downtown Eastside August 20, 2013.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

Canada's police chiefs will continue pushing Ottawa to give officers the option of handing out tickets for marijuana possession instead of proceeding with criminal charges, even though the Conservative government appears cool to the idea.

Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu, who is also president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, met with reporters on Thursday after returning from the group's annual meeting in Winnipeg. The association ratified a resolution that would expand enforcement options for illicit possession of cannabis, giving officers the ability to issue tickets similar to those for driving infractions or jaywalking.

Chief Chu said filling out the paperwork for a simple possession charge can take an officer off the street for several hours, and a criminal record for marijuana use can cause a person disproportional hardship. "We think our proposal will save money for the justice system, it will save time for police officers, but also the courts, who arguably have other, more serious matters to deal with," he said.

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Chief Chu said that when an officer encounters simple possession, the only options are to go all-in with a charge or do nothing. The proposal would provide officers a third avenue. He said it would be up to the federal government to determine how much the fines would be.

Justice Minister Peter MacKay said earlier this week the government has no intention of legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana because of the effects drugs have on users and society. He said the government has a responsibility to protect families.

Chief Chu said on Thursday the association will continue to give its "principled stance" to Ottawa. He said the association ruled out decriminalization or legalization because "we do not believe marijuana is good for people."

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has called for legalization and revealed he used pot three years ago, while he was an MP. Asked for comment on Mr. Trudeau's admission, Chief Chu said he had not seen the story.

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