09/24/2014 02:13 EDT | Updated 11/24/2014 05:59 EST

Peter MacKay Disputes Bob Paulson Comment Downplaying Marijuana Risk


Justice Minister Peter MacKay says he disagrees with the head of the RCMP that smoking pot isn't as big a deal as it once was, arguing young people in particular are "very negatively affected" by marijuana use.

RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson was quoted in a news story Wednesday as saying he doesn't think "marijuana usage is as big a deal as it used to be."

"It's still vulnerable to exploitation to organized crime, but you know, less and less as it becomes more and more commercially available," Paulson told Global News.

Last December, Paulson told CBC News that he had no opinion on the idea of giving police a ticketing option for people found with small amounts of marijuana.

MacKay said Paulson is entitled to his opinion, but that he disagrees.

"We know that there are young people in particular who are very negatively affected by marijuana use. We know that it can have a very severe impact on early childhood development. We know it certainly isn’t a motivator, it doesn’t make people want to get up and go out and lead productive lives," MacKay said.

Police chiefs want more options

The federal government is looking at changing Canada's drug laws, however, and giving police the option of ticketing pot users rather than charging them with a crime — or turning a blind eye.

Canada's chiefs of police last summer voted overwhelmingly in support of having a ticketing option for people found with 30 grams of marijuana or less.

MacKay wouldn't go as far as to say that Paulson was wrong to speak his mind.

"Well, this is free speech, right? And he’s a police officer, he has views, but I personally disagree," he said.

Earlier this year, an Ipsos Reid poll suggested 70 per cent of Canadians want to see the current pot laws at least relaxed — and one in three Canadians back full legalization.

Ipsos Reid polled a total of 3,000 randomly selected Canadian adults by phone — including both land lines and cellphone numbers — which gives the poll a countrywide margin of error of plus or minus 1.8 per cent, 19 times out of 20, with higher error rates for data broken down by region.

The poll commissioned by the Justice Department was conducted between Jan. 30 and Feb. 7, 2014.


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