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Edmonton Police Chief would support ticketing for small amounts of marijuana possession

EDMONTON- Edmonton’s Chief of Police, Rod Knecht, says he would support a resolution passed by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police that would see police officers hand out tickets for illegal possession of small amounts of marijuana.

“If we’re looking for efficiencies and there’s no decriminalization or legalizing, I support it,” Knecht said Wednesday morning.

During a meeting between Canada’s top cops earlier this week, delegates passed a resolution that says officers need more enforcement options to deal with people caught with pot.

Association president Jim Chu, who is chief constable of the Vancouver Police Service, says having the option of writing tickets to penalize marijuana users caught with less than 30 grams of the drug would reduce policing and court costs.

Right now, police can either hand out a warning or lay criminal charges. However, laying charges can be costly and it’s a lengthy process.

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“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.

From there, Knecht says a certificate of the analysis must be served to the suspect, who then appears in court again and is given a date for a preliminary hearing or a trial.

“I don’t think the law is so much about marijuana as it is about the burden on the system with the current way of dealing with the possession of marijuana,” he said. “We’re taking that burden away. You give somebody a ticket as opposed to this long convoluted process.”

Those who support the decriminalization of marijuana say it’s a step in the right direction.

“If you’re caught with small amounts it can wreck your life. It can wreck your travel. It can wreck your job for a lot of time,” said Colin Rogucki, owner of Shell Shock, a store that sells smoking materials.

“It’s a step in the right direction because I think society has changed in that I don’t think pot and marijuana is such a bad thing as it was thought to be a long time ago.”

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The ticketing proposal would require changing federal law, but the association says that does not mean the chiefs support the legalization of marijuana.

“This is not about the decriminalization or the legalization of marijuana, very adamant about that,” Knecht added.

Justice Minister Peter MacKay said in an email that 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.”

The association cited statistics from 2007 that show out of more than 100,000 drug offences reported by police that year in Canada, 47,101 of them were for marijuana possession.

With files from Laurel Clark, Ross Neitz, Global News.