Legal marijuana is upon us! Health Minister Jane Philpott announced on April 20 (oh, the irony) that the process of legalizing pot would begin during the spring of 2017. Students, stoners, and probably several of our professors rejoiced.
As most Canadians know, the federal government has been promising to legalize marijuana since the beginning of Trudeau’s campaign. It’s a promise that really resonated with the younger electorate, and I’d bet was at least partially responsible for Trudeau’s popularity at the polls.
Considering the upcoming changes to drug laws in Canada, why are law enforcers still wasting their time and our tax dollars enforcing outdated and soon-to-be-off-the-books laws? Both the general public and members of the judicial system have already begun questioning the morality of criminal marijuana charges since the government announced the pending changes.
According to CBC, tens of thousands of Canadians are still considered criminals in the eyes of the law, despite the obvious change in attitudes around personal and medical marijuana use. The delay between promise and (hopefully) implementation of this law has created a moral and legal quagmire that is difficult to navigate. The only sane solution is to stop enforcing existing laws around possession for personal use and the sale of cannabis products in shops.
Criminal marijuana charges seem especially ridiculous when compared to actual violent or disruptive crimes that occur daily. Some direction for law enforcement on negotiating the interim period would go a long way to settling the concerns for those caught between old laws and new attitudes.
Unfortunately, to most law enforcement agents, the law is the law, illogical logistics be damned. It seems the responsibility falls on the Liberal government’s shoulders to urge law enforcement to stop the criminal pursuit of petty drug charges — which are a waste of time and morally ambiguous at best. This would be the best way to protect innocent Canadians from marring their (otherwise clean) criminal records.
Luckily for us, the Lower Mainland and its associated police forces have adopted a much saner stance on drug prosecution. CBC stated last September that Vancouver Police have made it clear they barely pay attention to marijuana dispensaries. Other than instances in which dispensaries have been accused of selling to minors, or being involved in organized crime, the Vancouver Police Department won’t pursue charges.
Moreover, the current dispensary crackdown in Vancouver is due to the fact that these shops are, by city rules, too close to public schools and community centres; not because people may have been found with illegal possession of the drug.
Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer has publicly spoken of Trudeau’s legalization of pot, stating that more dangerous drugs are his priority — as they should be! Politicians like Tom Mulcair, and Neil Boyd, director of the school of criminology at SFU, have publicly urged Liberals to pardon past and present offenders.
The entire legalization procedure is complex, and I understand that the logistics of such a major change in the law take time and planning. Still, this doesn’t negate the fact that these offenders aren’t really criminals any longer, and therefore should not be treated as such.