More MS news articles for May 2003
Feds move to lower penalties for marijuana possession
May 20, 2003
By Chris Lambie
Halifax Daily News
Dartmouth High School students say Ottawa’s new marijuana law won’t make the drug easier to get.
The proposed law eliminates criminal penalties for possession of 15 grams of marijuana or less. Instead, police will hand out fines of up to $250 for youths and $400 for adults.
“It’s much easier for us to get marijuana than to get alcohol,” said Grade 12 student Erin Dompierre, 18. “It’s easier to get pot than to get cigarettes.”
The drug “is really simple to get,” and police don’t seem to pay attention to young people who smoke it in public, said Grade 12 student Jill Meehan, 17.
“It’s pretty lenient now as it is,” Meehan said.
Police staged an elaborate sting at the school three years ago, where a female officer posing as a student made 13 small drug buys. A new Dartmouth High policy says students who even smell like pot can get suspended.
“People are still going to go to class stoned,” said Grade 12 student Jessie Morin, 18
“Even if it’s legal or not.”
One 17-year-old who police arrested last fall at the school for marijuana possession said he got a $125 fine for holding four grams. He scoffed at the idea of police handing out tickets to people they catch people with pot.
“I don’t even think you should get a ticket,” said the teen, whose name is suppressed by the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
“You already paid for dope. Why should you pay for dope twice?”
Meanwhile, over in Halifax, a man who was shining shoes on Granville Street said he’s never been hassled for smoking pot in public.
“I’ll sit here and I’ll smoke a joint and I don’t get bothered,” said Shaun, who refused to give his last name. “I’ve had a sheriff come by (from the nearby Halifax Supreme Court) and say ‘You shouldn’t be smoking that out in public. You should be going somewheres else to do it.’”
The new law retains the current maximum penalty of life imprisonment for trafficking. But it boosts the maximum sentence for illegal growers to 14 years in prison from the current seven.
“It really puts the squeeze on for people being able to obtain medication,” said multiple-sclerosis patient Debbie Stultz-Giffin of Bridgetown.
“I suspect black market marijuana will probably increase drastically in price.”
Change will cost tokers – dealer
Ottawa’s new marijuana law is “an optical illusion,” says a Halifax drug dealer.
Making possession of 15 grams or less a ticketing offence doesn’t do anything for the average pot smoker, said the dealer, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“It’s like receiving the wrapped box that doesn’t have a gift in it,” he said.
“It looks pretty when you first get it, but if you really pay attention to what you’ve got, there’s nothing there.”
Under the proposed law, police will fine adults up to $400 for pot possession.
The old system often handed out $50 fines for holding small amounts of pot, said the dealer. “That’s a $350 increase.”
The new law will encourage police to hand out tickets to anyone caught with pot, he said.
“It will make it easier for the cops, and they’ll probably bust more people for tickets because there’s less paperwork involved with it now,” he said.
“The only thing it has lessened is their costs.”
Halifax Regional Police refused to comment yesterday on the new pot law before they get a copy of the new legislation.
The dealer doubts more people will smoke pot openly under the new law.
“It still has the social stigma that it always had,” he said. “They haven’t really changed that part.
“The only part they’ve changed is they’ve freed up the court system and they’re actually going to make more money off it.” — Chris Lambie
Metro police investigated 430 incidents involving marijuana possession in 2001, but only laid 184 charges.
Those charged include:
Police across Nova Scotia investigated 1,285 incidents involving marijuana possession in 2001, but only charged 589 people.
Those charged include:
Copyright © 2003 Halifax Daily News