Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Old-time cops

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THE Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has regrettably endorsed the obsolete view that marijuana should not be legalized or decriminalized.

The chiefs also failed to offer a solid argument in favour of the country's failed prohibition policies, which have fuelled the growth of gangs, while criminalizing thousands of young people for what society largely regards as an acceptable indulgence.

Police have the option of warning an offender in possession of a small amount of marijuana, or charging them criminally, depending on the circumstances. The association, however, has proposed a third option that would allow officers the discretion of issuing a ticket that would involve a fine, but no criminal record.

The chiefs said they need the ticketing option to punish people whose offence warrants some punishment, but not a criminal record.

Such a policy would help reduce congestion in the courts, they say, which is probably true, but decriminalization would go much further to reducing the problem.

The association said a man smoking pot while driving would normally be charged criminally with possession because it's considered more serious. But that makes little sense. Police shouldn't be charging someone with possession to deal with impaired driving. Furthermore, in a legalized environment, pot smokers could be charged with impaired driving.

The chiefs missed an opportunity to modernize the country's marijuana laws, demonstrating they are out of touch with public sentiment.

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

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 21, 2013 A8

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