Skip to main content

Editorials Harper should listen to Canada’s police chiefs on tickets for pot smoking

In this Aug. 19, 2011, file photo, a participant holds up a bag of marijuana during the first day of Hempfest, a gathering of thousands of people at Myrtle Edwards Park in Seattle. Police chiefs meeting in Winnipeg say handing out tickets for illegal possession of marijuana may be more efficient than laying criminal charges.

JOSHUA TRUJILLO/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The call by Canada's police chiefs to allow officers to ticket people found in possession of small amounts of marijuana is both welcome and innovative. It may be a matter of semantics, but the recommendation from the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police could be a way of finding a workable middle ground in the heated and drawn-out debate over the decriminalization of pot.

Many would argue that the chiefs' proposal to "enhance enforcement options" amounts to decriminalization. Their recommendation calls on Ottawa to use the Federal Contraventions Act to add a ticketing option to the part of the Controlled Drug and Substances Act that governs simple pot possession. (The Federal Contraventions Act allows provincial and municipal police to issue tickets for federal offences, mostly in the area of marine law and wildlife protection law.)

The upshot would be that police across Canada who encounter an individual smoking a joint in a park would no longer be limited to arresting the suspect, thereby adding one more body to a justice system already overloaded by minor pot offences, or letting the person off with a warning. Instead, the officer could issue a ticket with a fine attached to it. The suspect would not be saddled with a criminal record for an offence most Canadians do not consider grave, but he or she would still be on the hook for ignoring the law.

Story continues below advertisement

The best option would be to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of pot, as several U.S. jurisdictions have done (two states recently went further, legalizing it). We are past the era in North America where pot-smoking is considered a moral offence or a threat to society's well-being. The majority of Canadians have consistently supported the decriminalization – and even the legalization – of marijuana possession in recent polls. They are at odds, however, with a tough-on-crime federal government that is determined to punish and incarcerate pot users.

The police chiefs' proposal reinforces that it is the federal government, not the Canadian public, that is out of step with the times. The chiefs deserve congratulations for pressing forward with this debate and offering a way past the federal government's intransigence.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter