Reform Party, Canada’s Top Cops Back Removing Criminal Pot Penalties

Member of Parliament Keith Martin (Reform Party-Esquimalt) introduced legislation in the House of Commons Monday to remove criminal penalties for marijuana possession. The bill, C-503, mimics a position adopted last week by the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs recommending marijuana offenders be fined, but no longer arrested.

“Canadian law enforcement officers and some MPs aptly realize that otherwise law abiding citizens who smoke marijuana are not part of the crime problem and should not be treated like criminals,” NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. said. He noted that the proposed law is similar to those of ten U.S. states that treat marijuana possession as a fine-only offense. Ticketed offenders would not have to go through the court system, or be booked by police under Martin’s proposal.

Martin told the House that fining marijuana smokers would generate funding for drug prevention and education programs.

Barry King, who heads the CAPC’s drug abuse committee, said decriminalization would free up judicial resources and allow police to focus on more serious crimes. “This isn’t legalization; it’s decriminalization,” he said. “This is a balanced approach.”

While Canadian police support relaxing the marijuana laws, one anonymous senior law enforcement official told reporters at The National Post that pressure from U.S. officials may cause MPs to reject the proposal. “I wonder how they [the U.S.] will react to know that the federal government is contemplating decriminalizing [marijuana] possession,” he said. “I suspect they would be somewhat pissed.”

For more information, please contact either R. Keith Stroup or Paul Armentano of NORML @ (202) 483-5500. A transcript of MP Keith Martin’s statements to the House are available online at: www.parl.gc.ca/cgi-bin/36/pb_chb_hou_deb.pl?e.