McGill University law professor Daniel Weinstock is expecting Canada’s new cannabis laws to result in a steady stream of people getting caught under its strict provisions.
Lawyers believe that the zero-tolerance policies that it contains is likely to increase chances of people contesting charges, which might lead to Canada’s justice system further clogging up.
Another possible outcome is increased zeal on part of police and politicians to avoid being seen as being “soft on drugs”.
Weinstock noted that the country was “approaching a prohibitionist line” with a policy “that looks to be permissive”.
Under the new law, simply possessing marijuana is no longer considered to be criminal, which is expected to free up the justice system, but according to lawyers the current rules around cannabis are not anyway strongly enforced.
Local Province Governments Creating Varying Rules
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has declared that marijuana will be legalized by next year, and has left it to the provincial governments to develop their own legal frameworks for administrating the control and sale of cannabis.
The cannabis bill in Quebec for example is highly restrictive, prohibiting citizens from growing marijuana, despite the federal bill allowing citizens to grow up to four plants.
People in Quebec will be allowed to purchase cannabis only from the government similar to citizens of Ontario. Those caught driving under the influence will also have to face the “zero-tolerance principle” . Drivers will lose their licenses for a minimum of 90 days in any case of amount of marijuana is found in their saliva.
Testing Difficulties May Worsen Problems
Weinstock pointed out that people may test positive for cannabis even if someone has smoked a joint two days prior, adding that with such testing the “effect on the court system would be unimaginable”.
PM Trudeau has stated that his aim in legalizing marijuana was to make it tougher for children to access the drug. According to Weinstock said if the authorities become harsher on marijuana being sold to minors “that’s a whole area (of law) that’s going to explode.”
Criminal lawyer Andrew Barbacki also pointed out that the difficulties of testing properly for cannabis could lead to charges being contested widely. He noted that he foresees the first few years “to be a nightmare, really.”
Provinces’ Justice Systems Already Under Pressure
A recent Supreme Court ruling that seeks to restrict the length of time for criminal cases reaching trial is already putting pressure on Quebec and other provinces. The marijuana related charges is expected to increase the pressure.
Political Compulsions Could Force Tough Stance
Quebec’s restrictive bill on marijuana usage is likely due upcoming election in the province.
Weinstock indicated that Premier Philippe Couillard may have a political need to be seen as being tough on marijuana so as to not lose support from conservative voters.
Another reason for the tough stance according to him is the opposition to marijuana found at the south of its border. Referring to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ opposition to marijuana legalization, Weinstock noted that the attitude of its neighbouring country was a worry for Canadian politicians.