Pot prosecution 'hypocritical' while legalization looms: dispensary owner
As marijuana legalization looms, there are still thousands of people across Canada fighting pot-related charges — Mark Hauk is one of them.
The founder of the Saskatchewan Compassion Club is awaiting trial on trafficking charges relating to his operation of an unlicensed medical marijuana dispensary in Saskatoon. He was arrested in October 2015.
Hauk is confident that his constitutional challenge will eventually quash those charges, but he says given the Canadian government's plan to legalize pot, it's "hypocritical" for police across the country to keep charging people with pot-related offences.
"It just makes your head spin," Hauk said.
Hauk said the Canadian government has provided some of the best arguments against continued pursuit of pot charges in their push for legalization — everything from saddling youth with unnecessary records to helping organized crime.
He says the government should not be instructing police officers to enforce laws they are intent on changing.
Legalization won't solve crime: police chief
Saskatoon's police chief, however, says legalizing pot is not the antidote to organized crime that many think it is.
"I think there is a bit of a fallacy when people are thinking once marijuana is legalized, there is going to be no more criminal activity. We know from Colorado and Washington that that is not the case. The black market is still going to be alive and well," Chief Clive Weighill said.
Weighill said his officers have slowed down on charging people with simple possession. If someone is caught with a joint for example, he says more than likely they will not be charged.
But if they are caught with marijuana during an arrest on other charges, the pot charges will be laid.
He also says they will continue to investigate and charge traffickers.
Weighill said once marijuana is legalized, police must find a way to avoid unfairly targeting youth and saddling them with criminal records.
He said that's just one area with a huge question mark.
"We don't want to criminalize our youth. So what's going to happen to people under the age of 18 or 19 who are caught with marijuana?" Weighill said.
What will legalized pot look like in Saskatchewan?
Weighill and Hauk may differ on their opinions about how pot laws should be enforced before the laws are changed for good, but both the activist and the police chief can agree on one thing: there are still a lot of unknowns.
Hauk said because so much control of pot legalization stands with the province, there is the potential to get legalization very wrong.
"They could literally say 'in Saskatchewan, you can only carry five grams of cannabis at a time, you can only grow one plant.' So on a a provincial level there are more questions to be answered then not," Hauk said.
Weighill wouldn't speculate on how Saskatchewan's legal pot system will work or what the age should be — but he did say it's going to be an work in progress for everyone involved.
"It's going to be a learning curve for the users, a learning curve for police, a learning curve for the judiciary. All along the line I imagine the first few years are going to be a happening sight as we try to enforce all this," he said.
The province has remained relatively quiet on legalization.
In a statement last month, provincial officials said there were still serious concerns around driving safety, taxation rules and minimum ages for users.
The statement also raised questions about how much installing the legalization framework will cost the province.