Why the hesitation with pot decriminalization?

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Despite the government’s commitment to legal marijuana, possession charges continue to be prosecuted in Canada’s courts.

Criminal Lawyers’ Association (CLA) president Anthony Moustacalis wrote Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould back in February asking for a directive to stay all charges currently in the system. 

Why tie up the courts, his letter asks, with costly charges for a substance that will eventually be legal? The feds have announced that they plan to bring in their legal pot regime next spring. But so far Moustacalis has received no response from the feds.

Pot possession continues to make up the bulk of all drug charges laid by police in Canada, accounting for 54 per cent of all drug-related offences. According to Statistics Canada, 59,000 marijuana possession charges were laid in 2013. And those numbers are only going up. Marijuana-related offences have jumped by 8 per cent over the last decade.  

The CLA’s letter says it takes an average of 85 days for a simple possession charge to make its way through the courts. And those proceedings will only require more time and resources, says the CLA, as those currently facing possession charges try to prolong their cases knowing legalization is coming. 

The costs associated with pot possession charges become higher when offenders land in jail, the CLA argues. While it’s uncommon for those facing possession charges to be incarcerated, statistics indicate that the risk exists: 3,969 adults served sentences for simple possession between 2008 and 2012. 

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