Pot crusader Larsen pans marijuana ticketing idea

Police chiefs' call signals shift toward cannabis reform: SFU prof

A recommendation to let police treat simple marijuana possession as a ticketing offence is being opposed by the head of a provincial campaign to decriminalize pot.

Dana Larsen, whose group Sensible BC is set to kick off a petition campaign next month to force a referendum on marijuana policy, says the new resolution from the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police is counter-productive.

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.

“It’s a bad idea,” Larsen said. “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.

He said the proposal could confuse B.C. voters as canvassers prepare to ask them to  sign a petition that would press for a referendum on a proposed law blocking use of B.C. police resources for enforcing simple possession.

“Our solution does not involve fines or alternative penalties, it involves leaving people alone.”

If Ottawa embraced broader legislative reform, he added, it should simply legalize pot.

“I’d rather see revenue generated through legalization, regulation and taxation rather than fining the people who happen to be unlucky enough to get caught by police,” he said.

Larsen noted ticket-empowered police would still have the ability to charge some pot users, raising questions about potential selective enforcement.

The federal government, which would have to change federal legislation to enable marijuana ticketing, indicated it has no plans to legalize or decriminalize pot possession.

Vancouver Police Chief Const. Jim Chu, president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, said the organization does not support cannabis decriminalization or legalization.

Chu said police now must either turn a blind eye or lay charges when they encounter pot use, and ticketing would offer a new, more effective enforcement option.

The chiefs also say pot users who are ticketed for simple possession would avoid a criminal record that can block them from international travel, getting a job or gaining citizenship.

SFU criminology professor Rob Gordon called the resolution a significant shift that indicates police across the country – not just in B.C. – are ready for reform.

“It’s the thin edge of the wedge, it’s the beginning of a move away from the criminal enforcement approach,” Gordon said.

He said Sensible BC campaigners are pushing for change too fast and said ticketing would be part of a more gradual move to alter public thinking and government policy.

“When marijuana policy is normalized, I think we’ll look back at this period and say this is when the process began for the shift from criminalization towards regulation and taxation,” Gordon said.

“If you go slowly, you can help people shift their thinking from their current belief that marijuana use is some sort of demonic activity to recognizing it as just another recreational drug that does minimal harm and the sky will not fall.”

He said he wouldn’t be surprised if B.C. liquor stores sell pot within five years.

Although Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been firmly against marijuana reform, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s call for change this summer in B.C. re-ignited the issue.

Gordon said Harper won’t be able to ignore the chiefs’ resolution, although he might send it to a committee for a lengthy period of study.

He said there are signs even Harper is positioning his government for a pivot on the issue, noting the recent cabinet shuffle saw the departure of several law-and-order hardliners, including former Public Safety Minister Vic Toews.

A B.C. justice ministry spokesperson said police in B.C. must enforce the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act as it now stands and any changes to the legislation would be up to Ottawa.

Petition campaigners have 1,000 canvassers

Meanwhile, Sensible BC’s Dana Larsen said 1,000 canvassers are registered so far to collect signatures starting Sept. 9.

He said he hopes to have at least 2,000 in place by that date and to gain more – the group has a target of 5,000 – as the marijuana decriminalization campaign gathers steam.

They’ll have 90 days to collect signatures from 10 per cent of registered provincial voters in each of B.C.’s 85 electoral districts.

Larsen said the Fight HST campaign had 3,000 canvassers in place at the outset and got another 2,000 to 3,000 in the ensuing weeks.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” he said.

No groups opposing the initiative registered with Elections BC by an Aug. 12 deadline.

Had a group done so it would have had a spending limit of approximately $1 million to counter Sensible BC. Groups and individuals can still sponsor advertising for and against the petition, but will be subject to a $5,000 limit.

Just Posted

A Milbert’s tortoiseshell rests on a flower. Nature Chilliwack says butterfly gardens for every stage of life are possible using plants native to the area. (Photo/Nature Chilliwack)
Nature Chilliwack offers butterfly garden tips

Gardens can be created using local plants, the nature club says

(Photo/Mary-Jean Coyle)
Community Camera for June 11, 2021

Submit your photos to news@ahobserver.com

Jacqueline Pearce and Jean-Pierre Antonio received the BC Historical Federation Best Article Award on Saturday for their story about translating haiku written in the Tashme internment camp.
Article chronicling haiku in Japanese internment camp near Hope wins award

Tashme Haiku Club’s work was preserved and recently translated, authors write

(Adam Louis/Observer)
PHOTOS: Students leap into action in track events at Kent Elementary

At Kent Elementary, when the sun’s outside, the fun’s outside. The intermediate… Continue reading

Kindergarten kids from Evans elementary school in Chilliwack painted rocks with orange hearts and delivered them to Sto:lo Elders Lodge recently after learning about residential schools. (Laura Bridge photo)
Kindergarten class paints rocks with orange hearts in Chilliwack for local elders

‘Compassion and empathy’ being shown by kids learning about residential schools

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

Most Read