Legalizing pot use a tricky issue, say Norfolk PSB members

Monte Sonnenberg

By Monte Sonnenberg, Simcoe Reformer

QMI Agency File

QMI Agency File


Some on Norfolk’s Police Services Board wonder if legalizing the recreational use of marijuana might cause as many problems as it solves.

Justin Trudeau, leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, made headlines last summer when he said he would legalize marijuana for recreational purposes if he formed the next government.

Trudeau and supporters of his position believe police are fighting a losing battle in their bid to eliminate marijuana as a recreational drug. Continued high demand in the face of expensive enforcement fuels a black market that enriches organized criminals while fostering violence in places like Mexico and South America.

The Trudeau camp believes saddling users with criminal records is disproportionate to the offence. They also believe it would be smarter to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol while treating addiction and over-use as a medical problem.

But members of the local PSB suspect there will be a price to pay. Simcoe Coun. Peter Black says marijuana will remain an enforcement issue regardless of what voters and politicians decide.

“It’s like alcohol,” he said Wednesday. “For those who can’t control themselves, alcohol needs to be regulated. Marijuana is the same thing. If you smoke it, it is like a drug. It can impair your abilities. If you legalize it, there will still have to be controls over it.”

PSB chair Peter Hellyer, of Simcoe, agrees. Even if marijuana is legalized, Hellyer says there will have to be standards on public impairment, driving under the influence and keeping the drug away from minors.

Hellyer adds the public needs a serious, in-depth discussion of the matter before major changes are made. He noted that the marijuana produced today is much more potent than the marijuana young people were smoking in the 1960s.

“It’s definitely a conduit to harder drugs when used for recreational purposes,” Hellyer said.

Canada received an unexpected opportunity to test Trudeau’s thinking last fall when the states of Colorado and Washington voted in referendums to legalize marijuana. The law changed Jan. 1 in Colorado while Washington will dispose of its restrictions later this year. PSB member Dave Murphy, of Port Dover, is among those watching the situation with interest.

“I don’t think we’re ready for it yet,” Murphy said. “I believe it’s something that needs a lot of discussion. The doors are opening but I don’t know where this is leading. There are other addictions that society doesn’t seem to have a problem with. But I want to see how the issue unfolds in the U.S. before I go into any more detail.”

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police favours minor reforms to the current law. The association believes fines for possession of small amounts of marijuana are preferable to charges that require a court appearance and which can lead to jail time and a criminal record.


Monte Sonnenberg

519-426-3528 ext. 150


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