By Adam Brazeau
CORNWALL, Ontario – Police chief Dan Parkinson is advocating that small amounts of marijuana would be better served with a ticket, than a criminal charge.
© Adam Brazeau
Cornwall police chief Dan Parkinson wants his officers to start marijuana-ticketing, instead of laying criminal charges when offenders are caught with a small amount of pot.
At the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) annual meeting, the "timely and costly process" of charging pot offenders in possession of 30 grams and under sparked a call for change in legislation.
"What we're advocating makes sense, it's time to speed up the method," said Parkinson. "We run into this situation from time to time and would like a more expeditious way of dealing with it."
Parkinson said that marijuana-ticketing would enable his officers to circumvent the need for a technical arrest, putting offenders in custody, fingerprinting, issuing court dates, attending court dates, drug analysis and further paperwork.
"That all takes time, money and effort to process," said the police chief.
Parkinson also weighed the amount of staff hours it takes to follow through on a charge in contrast to the conviction rate.
"The penalties are borderline with an absolute discharge," he said.
That doesn’t mean Parkinson is looking to fully decriminalize pot, either.
"It isn’t decriminalizing, it's not making it legal, it's providing an option of possession of marijuana with a certain amount," said Parkinson. "This is not about becoming soft on crime. It's about creating efficiencies in the justice system that deals with certain offences. The fact you're not coming away with a criminal record, should not be confused with decriminalizing."
Parkinson said that marijuana is a drug that can lead to further substance abuse. He especially cited the impact it has on youth and the high likelihoods of the habit being carried on in adulthood.
"Until it's proven to not be harmful, I'm not prepared to agree with decriminalization," said Parkinson. "Marijuana would be a gateway drug to other harder drugs down the line."
Currently, if charged with possession of marijuana, even in smaller amounts, offenders can be at risk for future employment and education, citizenship, and crossing borders.
"If people knowingly commit an offence and if it ends up costing a job for them, that's most unfortunate, but it's not something that can happen by accident. There are consequences to going against what the law says," said Parkinson. "Part of the message to youth is don’t find yourself in this position. It could affect your life in a negative way, without that message it takes away the impact we have to live within the lines."
Parkinson said the chiefs knew the issue would attract national media attention. He said the prime minister's recent comment that his government is looking "very carefully" into the matter is progress.
"That’s a huge leap forward," he said.
For the Cornwall police chief, the issue has been burning for quite some time. The CACP 2007 annual meeting came up with the same resolution for marijuana-ticketing.
"We wouldn’t be pleased if it took another six years," said Parkinson.