Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Author: David Hogben, Vancouver Sun
Published: Wednesday, September 17, 2003
Copyright: 2003 Vancouver Sun
Contact: [email protected]
Officers will still use discretion when enforcing the law, Vancouver police say.
The Vancouver police department, B.C.'s top law enforcement officer and a university criminologist all say marijuana remains illegal in B.C. despite a contrary ruling by provincial court Judge Patrick Chen.
Vancouver police Constable Sarah Bloor said police rarely enforce the law, but have the right to do so. She said that will be the situation unless Parliament changes the law as the federal Liberal government has indicated it could this fall.
Bloor said police use discretion enforcing the law, but would not say exactly under which circumstances an officer would recommend charges to the federal Crown, which is responsible for charge approval in drug cases.
"It depends upon the situation and each officer is going to have to make a decision based upon the situation as it presents itself."
Bloor said one situation where a charge would be be recommended would be if an officer found a person impaired by drugs who was operating a motor vehicle or committing another crime.
The decriminalization issue hit the headlines again Tuesday when it was reported Chen ruled earlier this month that the law was void since Ontario's top appeal court ruled three years ago that it was invalid.
Simon Fraser University criminologist Neil Boyd said, however, the Ontario appeal court decision can be used to persuade, but not bind judges in B.C. courts.
Solicitor General Rich Coleman agreed that neither the B.C. provincial court decision nor the Ontario appeal court decision binds higher courts in B.C., or federal courts.
Coleman said people who believe the courts have decriminalized marijuana possession should think again.
"They are mistaken; it's still an illegal substance in Canada."
Coleman said he wants tougher penalties to discourage trafficking, grow operations and other drug-related activities of organized crime.
U.S. Consul-General Luis Arreaga also said Tuesday that decriminalization of marijuana could lead to border congestion as U.S. Customs officers attempt to stem the flow of readily available B.C. marijuana to the U.S.
He said the U.S. does not want to dictate Canadian internal policies, but said decriminalizing marijuana in B.C. could affect the U.S. by causing more citizens of his country to purchase marijuana in Canada for use or sale in the U.S.
"It could result in some waits at the border," said Arreaga, who was in Vancouver to thank police officers for their fundraising efforts and support given to the families of New York city police officers killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S.
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