Canada: What Happens When You're Arrested For Marijuana Possession?

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What happens when you get busted for possession of weed in this city? The Montreal Gazette put that question out to readers, legal experts and the proprietor of a marijuana dispensary. Taken as a whole, their answers could be summarized with just two words: it depends.

Under Section 4 of Canadas Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana is punishable by a fine of $1,000 or a six-month jail sentence for first offenders. However, the Montreal Gazette did not find anyone in this city who served jail time for such an offence.

In fact, most readers reported a rather laissez-faire attitude on the part of Montreal police officers. Some werent so lucky. Here are some of their responses.

Darren: Montrealer, salesman, father of one

The cops pulled a friend and me over in the West Island, searched our car, went through my pockets and found it. Next thing you know, Im in the back of the police car, Im at the station and they tell me theyre pressing charges.

I didnt want $7 of weed to f-ing screw up the rest of my life so I hired a lawyer. I had, literally, like not even a gram on me. My lawyer had explained to me that its basically to the policemans discretion if he wants to press charges or not. I unfortunately got a jerk. So we got our first court date and my lawyer calls and says, I dont like that judge, were going to postpone it. Okay. Our second court date he did the same thing. Finally, on our third court date, he liked the judge and we went forward with our plan.

He went in, spoke to the prosecutor, the judge and I ended up making a $1,500 donation to a womens shelter and they dropped the case. It was as if it never went to court, its not on my record, theres no trace of it. It cost me a bunch of money – about $3,000 – for what it was. I had just been hired at (a major telecommunications company) and they do criminal background checks and a conviction would have been grounds for them to fire me.

John: Cte-des-Neiges resident, student

We were passing around a joint in a parking lot late one summer night when two cops rolled up. They searched all of us but I was the only one holding (I had maybe a gram on me). They asked us if we were in a gang, which, I dont think they would have asked us that if we were white. They ran all of our names through the system, it came back that none of us had a criminal record so they let my friends go.

It was humiliating to be put in the back of a cop car, having to go in front of a judge, having to borrow money from my parents to pay for a lawyer. Were not rich, I know that the money we had to pay – I think it was $2,000 for a lawyer and we wrote a $1,500 cheque to a charity – for me not to have a criminal record really put a strain on the family. I broke the law, yeah, but Im not a bad guy. I work, I go to school and sometimes I blow off some steam.

Marc-Boris St-Maurice: Founder of Fondation Marijuana, activist, politician, punk rocker.

If youre smoking a joint walking down St-Laurent Blvd., honestly I think the cops have bigger issues to tackle here. If youre in a park in a suburb near a school and youre a 17-year-old kid and parents complain, you might find that they have to do something because of pressure. If youre in Vancouver, probably nothing happens. If youre in Saskatoon, you might go to court and you could go to jail. The application is completely disproportionate depending on the jurisdiction.

When it comes to the amount of people smoking marijuana versus those convicted, were talking like 0.0013 per cent of users actually get slapped. Youve got to ask yourself, whats the point? We wouldnt accept a murder solve rate of 0.0013 per cent. Why? Because we know its wrong to take someones life. We accept such a low solve rate with marijuana because we know that, aside from the person smoking, its essentially a victimless crime.

Jason Carmichael: McGill University criminology professor, former probation officer

Professor Carmichael was asked whether, in Canada, people of colour are disproportionately affected by drug laws.

I am not familiar with any empirical data on this in Canada. Some scholars have described the application of marijuana laws as among the most glaring example of racial discrimination in the (American) criminal justice system. A study using arrest data from New York City showed that a full 15 per cent of all arrests over a 25-year period were for marijuana in public view. Sixty-four per-cent of those arrests were of blacks and 25 per cent of Latinos. Given that marijuana use appears to be normally distributed across racial groups, a fair application of drug laws would look nothing like this.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: What Happens When You’re Arrested For Marijuana Possession? It Depends
Author: Christopher Curtis
Contact: 1-514-987-2222
Photo Credit: Dario Ayala
Website: Montreal Gazette