Why are arrests still being made?
By Cazzy Lewchuk, Opinions Editor
Like most Canadians, I support the democratic process of law and legislation. I also support the full legalization of marijuana with as few restrictions as possible. I believe any adult should be able to own, grow, and use cannabis as much as they’d like, and I question why limiting what people can do with a plant is necessary.
After promising legislation to legalize marijuana by the spring of 2017, the Liberal government finally delivered at the last minute. They recently made the promise to introduce legislation legalizing weed across Canada… by July 1, 2018.
As has been repeatedly stated and demonstrated by authorities, marijuana laws are still in effect. Until officially legal, marijuana suppliers and users continue to face charges for a substance that is to become legal in the near future.
As has always been the case for marijuana arrests, they disproportionately affect minorities. An indigenous person (or a person of any other visible minority) is more likely to be arrested and charged for being caught with weed than a white person would be. The maximum punishment in Canada for possession under 30 grams is 6 months in jail and a $1000 fine. The sentence is usually much less, but it can still lead to having a criminal record, which is very damaging and can significantly limit opportunities.
Justin Trudeau has admitted to smoking marijuana, and has publicly advocated its legalization. Nevertheless, he supports arrests and charges of other Canadians who cultivate the stuff.
It is not just the people with a couple joints on them who suffer. Anyone who sells marijuana—whether to their friends or on a national level—can face years in jail. With medical marijuana having been legal for years and full legalization on the horizon, there seems little reason to suddenly go after dispensary owners.
Most of the charges will likely be dropped by the time they go to court. Most criminal cases take years to go on trial, and the legal nature of marijuana by that time would cause most judges to simply throw the case out.
It is hypocritical and confusing to suggest that marijuana is a dangerous and illegal substance in 2017 while planning to tax and support it the very next year. The government believes marijuana is harmful to children and should not be accessed by youth (a belief I share), but doesn’t seem to think it hurts Canadians enough to remain illegal.
Using marijuana for medicinal purposes in Canada has been legal since 2001. Many people who use it for legitimate health reasons also enjoy it recreationally, and many who claim to use it medicinally are, in fact, only using it to get high (gasp!). It’s silly to prevent everyone from accessing it legally, especially with a readily available market and lots of tax money to be made. It’s one thing to draw out the legislation process to ensure fair taxes and logistics, but to continue arresting people in the meantime is damaging and a waste of resources.