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Ridge & Pitt mayors support ticketing for pot possession
The two local mayors like the idea of police just handing out tickets for pot possession instead of saddling people with criminal charges.
“We need to free up the court system to get some of the serious stuff dealt with,” said Maple Ridge Mayor Ernie Daykin.
If police find someone with marijuana but with no medical marijuana licence, police should be able to issue a ticket, he says.
But if the amount is a kilogram or more, then trafficking charges could be in order. “There has to be some way to simplify the system.”
Daykin was commenting after the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police last week recommended letting police treat simple marijuana possession as a ticketing offence.
The chiefs’ association argues the option of writing tickets to punish people caught with less than 30 grams of marijuana would be less costly and time-intensive than sending criminal charges through the courts.
Maple Ridge has jumped to the front of the medical marijuana debate by proposing a bylaw requiring medical pot to be grown only within the Agricultural Land Reserve, under strict conditions. A public hearing on that takes place Sept. 17. New medical pot laws allowing commercial operations come into effect next April.
Daykin though disagrees with the federal Conservative approach on marijuana which opposes any decriminalization of the drug.
“Prohibition didn’t work in the 1930s with alcohol. It just made a bunch of people rich.”
But it’s always possible that the federal government could reverse itself. “Never say never.”
“If they’re that rock solid in their position, they need to ask themselves why?“Wisdom is what you have left over when you run out of personal opinions on the subject.”
Pitt Meadows Mayor Deb Walters has a similar view and says ticketing could be an interim step until the issue is sorted out once and for all.
“Do we need to go to court for a small possession of marijuana [charge] and do we have the resources for that? I don’t think so. I think there are other crimes out there that the money can be better spent on.
“In the meantime, I’m all about cost saving. If this frees up the courts and this makes it a little bit less time-intensive for the police – then it is about saving money for our citizens.”
She acknowledges it’s awkward with some parts of society calling for legalization while others are dead set against and pointed out that’s the case in Washington state which has legalized personal use while the American government opposes it.
“There’s a lot of resources being used to take criminals on smaller charges to court and it’s taking forever to get them through the system.”
Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows MP Randy Kamp said it’s an interesting question but added the government hasn’t responded to the police chiefs’ suggestion and that Ottawa doesn’t plan on legalizing or decriminalizing cannabis.
“We continue to believe that drugs, even marijuana, are illegal because of its harmful effects that they have on users and society at large.”
But Kamp said speaking personally, ticketing could be a middle ground “that’s probably worth considering at least.”
Former Maple Ridge councillor Craig Speirs though says it’s simply time to legalize marijuana. He’s coordinating Sensible BC’s petition efforts in both Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows. Sensible BC is trying to collect enough names to force a province-wide referendum on legalizing marijuana.
“It’s refreshing that Ernie would agree with that. I think he’s ahead of regular politicians, just like the rest of the public. We’re leaving (Conservative Prime Minister Stephen) Harper in the dust.”
“I really think that the public is way ahead of the politicians on this one,” Speirs said Friday while on vacation.
Speirs supports federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s stance on pot which also favours legalization. Speirs previously ran as an NDP candidate federally.
“Where are the Tories? Where are the NDP on this? I’m frustrated as hell.”
He added that the federal Conservative approach to keep marijuana illegal costs B.C. $10 million a year in police enforcement costs.
According to statistics provided by Ridge Meadows RCMP, pot possession charges have jumped.
In 2009, there were 52 simple possession charges from the Ridge Meadows detachment while in 2012, there were 63.
The group that wants marijuana legalized though disagrees with the ticketing approach.
“It’s a bad idea,” said Sensible B.C.’s Dana Larsen, who is director of Maple Ridge’s TAGGS Cannabis Dispensary. “It’s actually going to result in more cannabis users being persecuted.”
He said police in B.C. issue warnings or write reports on 18,000 people a year for use of marijuana without laying charges.
“They would all get tickets under that new system,” Larsen predicted.
– with files from Jeff Nagel