Pot Laws Go Up In Smoke?
Following quickly on the heels of media reports that marijuana possession was back as a "real" crime in Canadian cities, a new ruling is set to strike down the laws entirely. Again. Maybe.
Statistics just released showed an apparent surge of 20% - 50% in the number of pot possession busts in Toronto, along with Vancouver, Halifax and Ottawa.
This was a marked change from 2003, when an Ontario court ruled that no personal-possession marijuana law existed, it having been deemed unconstitutional in 2000 (with a one year timeframe for the government to make changes to the laws, which did not happen).
This had essentially wiped the laws from the books... until the federal government decided to "patch things up" with what was pretty much a softly-recriminalizing decriminilization bill, introduced under Paul Martin's Liberals and never fully passed through to law.
Police Chief Bill Blair was quick to make an announcement in response to the statistics' release, however, stating that the surge in marijuana-related arrests in Toronto was only due to an increased focus on organized crime in the city, which inevitably involved marijuana possession and trafficking amongst many charges.
According to Blair, the Toronto police is keeping in line with its several-year run of labelling marijuana possession arrests as wasted time and resources, and has not changed this in the switch from federal Liberals to Conservatives, nor from Fantino to himself.
How this really translates into street-level reality is open for examination, though, since with no firm legal guidance the police force has been crafting vague policy and leaving things largely to the discretion of officers, encouraging them to focus on more serious concerns.
While I do find I notice people smoking weed fairly casually in a lot of settings, I also had a story recounted to me of someone being arrested, charged and convicted for rolling a joint in a coffee shop bathroom stall which an undercover decided to peek into. Beyond that being out of line with Blair's opinion of police policy, it sounds downright perverted to me, but that's a separate issue.
The issue at hand is that which applies to all Canadians - what's actually set down in the legal system. A new ruling, just issued this Friday by a Toronto judge, has again deemed Canada's marijuana possession laws unconstitutional. (You might recognize defense lawyer Brian McAllister as the same who handled the case back in 2003.)
The argument put forth was that, since the government had made it a policy that medical marijuana ought to be accessible, but never properly instituted or re-wrote laws to ensure that it was, the entire possession law ought to be deemed unconstitutional. The judge agreed, however he gave the prosecution two weeks before making the ruling official.
The government is expected to appeal, and so we're apparently stuck in the same confusing haze we have been for the past few years. For what it's worth, we really may as well have been stoned the whole time - just as much would've gotten accomplished.
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