Are the Conservatives about to bend on marijuana laws?

Peter MacKay, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, takes part in a press conference in the House …Is the Conservative government about to loosen the reins when it comes to Canadian marijuana laws, even as they battle to maintain a perception of strictness? Well, don’t expect Prime Minister Stephen Harper to join Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s legalization crusade any time soon, but a small step may be on the way.

In a recent interview with QMI Agency, Justice Minister Peter MacKay hinted that the party was poised to relax its stance on marijuana.

"That doesn't mean decriminalizing or legalizing, but it does mean giving police options, for example, to issue fines in addition to any other sanctions, or as a substitute for other sanctions," MacKay said Tuesday.

"These are things that we are willing to look at in the new year, but there's been no decision taken."

[ Related: Could pot-friendly Uruguay supply Canada with medicinal marijuana? ]

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police requested earlier the right to ticket people caught with small amounts of pot, less than 30 grams, rather than be forced to arrest them. The association said the change would free up police resources and give officers an option between arresting a user and turning a blind eye entirely.

Harper said at the time that the government would look "very carefully" at the recommendation. It would seem by MacKay's comments that they have been doing just that.

MacKay's comments come amid a public spat with Trudeau after the latter made it a party policy to legalize marijuana and came clean about his own history with the drug. He most recently attacked Trudeau for discussing his legalization policy with Manitoba school students.

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Notably, the comments also come as Conservatives and Liberals promote their drug policies in front of Canadians whose mother tongues are not English or French.

Paul Wells of Maclean's reported Wednesday that the Liberals have released radio commercials in Cantonese, Mandarin and Punjabi, seemingly in response to similar ads run by the Conservatives.

A translation of the Liberal ad states, "Justin Trudeau wants to tightly regulate marijuana, to keep it out of the hands of our kids and striking back at the criminals and gangs who distribute it. Stephen Harper’s approach has failed. We need a leader who is willing to tackle problems with solutions that actually work."

Has the pressure bent, but not broken, the Conservative’s line on marijuana? Or are they simply considering a recommendation from those who might know best how to handle marijuana possession: Canada’s police chiefs?

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