OTTAWA — The federal government has tailored its highly anticipated marijuana legislation to ensure younger teens don’t wind up with criminal records for pot possession.
Currently, people between 12 and 17 can be charged for having any amount of marijuana, but the newly tabled legislation proposes that people under age 18 would not face criminal prosecution for possessing or sharing up to five grams.
Bill Blair, a Liberal MP working with federal ministers on the legislation, said Monday the ultimate goal is to give provinces and territories flexibility to prohibit young people from possessing any amount of cannabis, with the option to introduce non-criminal sanctions for having a small amount.
“There are far better ways to deal with those offences that don’t result in a criminal record, which are quite frankly more straightforward to enforce, less onerous to enforce, less costly to enforce but also achieve a much better social outcome by not giving those kids a criminal record,” he said.
Provinces could bring in a regulatory ticketing system — much like the one in Ontario for those under 19 caught purchasing, possessing or drinking alcohol, he noted.
This requires “basic regulation” for the provinces, said Blair, a former Toronto police chief.
“I’m not minimizing the amount of work that needs to be done,” he said. “This is pretty straightforward . . . I’ve enforced those laws for 40 years so I’m familiar with how they work.”
He also challenged the suggestion responsibilities have been downloaded on the provinces.