The Harper government is keeping an open-mind towards relaxing penalties for marijuana possession, according to Justice Minister Peter MacKay.
The Canadian Justice Minister strongly hinted that the government was still weighing a proposal set forth by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) this summer, reports The Toronto Sun.
The proposal would not change marijuana’s legal status, but would allow police to issue fines for possession of small quantities of marijuana instead of criminal charges, MacKay explained.
“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. These are things that we are willing to look at in the new year, but there’s been no decision taken.”
The recommendation was passed by the CACP at their annual meeting in August, and aims to provide officers with more enforcement options for marijuana possession.
At the time, CACP President Jim Chu suggested that criminal charges for possession were an unnecessary burden on police and court resources, and a “large majority” of cases could be more efficiently handled with fines.
While the Harper government has yet to make significant progress on the issue, rising support for the opposing Liberal Party may cause the Conservatives to revise their stance on marijuana.
Since the summer, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has criticized prohibition and is now pushing to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana.
Despite political backlash from Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party, polls suggest Trudeau’s position on marijuana is popular among Canadian voters.