ALBERTA

Alison Redford, Rick Hanson Stand United Against Marijuana Tickets

08/28/2013 04:57 EDT | Updated 08/28/2013 04:57 EDT
CP

While politicians across the country are fessing up to their past marijuana use, and calling for pot legalization in Canada, Alberta's premier and Calgary's police chief are singing a different tune.

Just this past weekend Premier Alison Redford told the Calgary Herald she does not support the legalization of marijuana and said the Alberta government still views the drug as dangerous.

“We actually believe marijuana is a gateway drug into harder drugs. It’s a serious drug. It leads to addiction and we don’t believe it to be harmless,” she said.

Police chiefs from across the country met in Winnipeg last week to discuss a new resolution that would see tickets, rather than charges, handed down to those in possession of pot -- a plan Redford takes issue with.

“We think it’s important that it still be considered to be a serious enough criminal activity that there are consequences beyond ticketing and fines because we want to keep our communities safe. And we don’t think that resolution allows us to keep our communities safe,” said the former provincial justice minister to the Herald.

Calgary's Chief of Police, Rick Hanson, reiterated Redford, telling NewsTalk770 he thinks ticketing would be a form of legalization -- something he does not support.

"You write them a ticket and it's a fine and if they don't pay it you turn it over to a collections agency. Well, that's decriminalizing and, frankly, that's making a mockery of it, in my mind."

Hanson also questions the message decriminalization would send to children and teens, telling CTV Calgary lawmakers should look at science and repercussions before making pot legal.

“It’s an issue about decriminalizing something that sends a message out to the community that this is safe when, as more and more research gets into the effects of any drug on brain development especially at early ages, we’d better go into this with our eyes wide open and not pretend that somehow, legalizing a drug is going to eradicate the national debt, get rid of organized crime, everybody will be healthy, happy and mellow. That’s just not the case,” he said. (Full interview with CTV here.)

Edmonton's police chief, Rod Knecht, on the other hand, sees nothing wrong with ticketing, telling CBC News the current process is "long" and "convoluted."

"I think what we're looking for is more efficiencies in the criminal-justice system,” he said.

Currently, if someone is charged with marijuana possession the drug is sent away for analysis, prosecution must get involved, as well as judges.

“If I arrest someone for possession of marijuana, what we have to do is, it’s not a ticket. I have to write a longer form out there and it’s a longer process. I seize that marijuana, I take it back. If that person pleads not guilty I have to send it away to a lab. The lab has to do an analysis on that. So we’re engaging a whole other system and a cost that’s attached to that,” Knecht explained to Global News.

However, Knecht, like Redford and Hanson, is adamant that pot in Alberta not be decriminalized or legalized. He told the Edmonton Journal that officers still need to be able to lay charges when they feel it's necessary.

Justice Minister Peter MacKay told Global News the federal government has no intention of legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana.

“These drugs are illegal because of the harmful effects they have on users – and on society for that matter. As a government, we have a responsibility to protect the interests of families across this country.”

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