Fueled by a “great misunderstanding” of cannabis laws among Canadians, the country is moving in the opposite direction from what’s happening internationally with making possession charges more lax, and a Parliamentary debate on marijuana is “overdue,” say experts.
“In Germany, in Spain and Italy, Portugal, they actually decriminalized all forms of drug possession,” University of Toronto criminology and sociology professor Patricia Erickson said, calling Canada “retrograde” when it comes to cannabis. “Europe has moved ahead, Australia has moved ahead—ahead in the sense of playing down the significance of simple possession and in counterpoint adopting a more public health oriented approach.”
Prof. Erickson said Canadian cannabis possession laws have not changed since 1969, when a fine was added as an option to jail time and or probation and it’s time to look at them again. “In my view after 40 years in this area, it’s really overdue to have a proper debate in Parliament. We’ve never had that,” she said. “There’s been various legislative proposals tabled and committee discussion, but there’s never actually been a debate in Parliament about the laws governing illicit drugs in Canada.”
Anyone who’s been in Ottawa on April 20 has likely witnessed the thick cloud of smoke ascending up from the Parliament Hill lawns in the late afternoon, and witnessing hundreds of people toking up right under the watchful eyes of the RCMP, and could be forgiven for thinking cannabis laws in Canada are lax.