Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

No rule of law

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Simple possession of marijuana is a criminal offence but the odds of being charged vary widely across the country, data compiled by Statistics Canada for 2012 indicates.

Only 18 per cent of people found with small amounts of marijuana in Halifax, for example, were charged criminally, while more than 82 per cent of pot users in Saskatoon were charged. The Canadian average is 47 per cent, while in Winnipeg 78 per cent of incidents resulted in a date in court.

Canada's cities obviously have different priorities when it comes to enforcing the Criminal Code on marijuana. While some discrepancy is to be expected, enforcement should not be so dramatically selective.

Canada is governed by the rule of law, which is supposed to mean laws are applied evenly and fairly.

The uneven enforcement, however, is just another example of why pot use should be legalized.

It is fundamentally unfair some Canadians are more likely to end up with a criminal record because of where they live. It also illustrates a breakdown in authority and respect for the country's cannabis laws.

The Harper government has taken a more aggressive approach to marijuana legislation since it was elected in 2006, but it needs to rethink its position and legalize pot possession. Justice and the rule of law demand it.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 20, 2014 A8

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