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Zero-tolerance policy behind pot possession charges in Saskatoon

82 percent of arrests for simple possession lead to charges: Stats Canada
Reported by Kurtis Doering
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Saskatoon police Sgt. Dean Hoover says those who choose to break the law also make the choice to get a criminal record.

His reiteration of the service's zero-tolerance drug policy comes in the wake of new Stats Canada figures, which show the likelihood of being charged for simple marijuana possession, (up to 30 grams,) is over 82% in Saskatoon.

That's roughly 35% higher than the national average.

By comparison, getting caught with a few joints in Toronto will result in charges 55% of the time. In Regina, that number is closer to 46%. In Halifax, 18%.

"It's pretty hard for me to speak about what other jurisdictions do" Hoover said.

"I've never heard a word from anybody here saying 'let's change the way we do things because that's what they're doing it in another place' like Colorado or wherever."

Hoover adds that drug crimes tend to be associated with other offences which occur in the city.

"There's people who drive while they're impaired on drugs and cause accidents" he said. "There's other people that do their next break-and-enter so they can afford to feed their habits."

Attitudes surrounding the recreational use of marijuana are in the midst of a rapid change in Canada and the United States. Two states south of the border have legalized the distribution of recreational pot, with more states set to follow.

In Canada, the federal Liberal Party is considering a policy of "ending the prohibition of marijuana and addressing the root causes of crime".

Last year, The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police put forward a resolution asking that officers be given the option of issuing people with 30 grams or less of cannabis a ticket instead of criminally charging them.

However, until the laws change, Hoover says their zero-tolerance drug policy will remain in place.

"It all boils down to right now it is a criminal offence, and that's it" he said.

kdoering@rawlco.com

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