Marijuana tickets foolish, pro-legalization lawyer says

A St. John's defence lawyer says Canada's chiefs of police have fallen far short with a call to issue tickets rather than criminal charges to people caught smoking marijuana.

"The proposal by the chiefs of police is absolutely ridiculous," said Bob Buckingham, a prominent lawyer who says he has advocated for many years for the decriminalization of marijuana.

"It doesn't address the criminality of the industry, and how people are involved in it and where they have to go to get their marijuana," said Buckingham.

Earlier this week, Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Chief Robert Johnston echoed the sentiments of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, which has called for the ability to issue tickets for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Buckingham, though, said the proposal is half-hearted and does not go far enough.

"The ticketing issue is a non-issue. The ticketing issue is not a way of dealing with the problem [because] marijuana must be legalized," said Buckingham, adding that he is confident that laws will eventually be changed to allow for marijuana to be fully decriminalized.

"They'll eventually get there," he said.

The John Howard Society, which works with people who have run into trouble with the law, supports issuing tickets as an alternative to a criminal charge.

Cindy Murphy, executive director of the John Howard Society of Newfoundland and Labrador, told CBC News that a conviction for possession can cause permanent damage to someone's life and career.

"People don't really understand. Once you have a criminal conviction on your record, not everyone is going to dig deeper to find out what that criminal conviction is," she said.

"So if you have a simple possession conviction on your record, and that's all that's there, you could be looked at the same way as someone who has 10 convictions," said Murphy.