We all know that we aren’t supposed to smoke cannabis in public regardless of its legal status. Realistically, the temptation to light up outdoors on a beautiful day will not be ignored by many stoners. Depending on where you live, the risks vary but it will always result in some form of punishment. Thankfully no one else will ever be arrested for public marijuana use in the U.S. capital. Instead, those that are unlucky enough to evade the police will face a small fine of $25. Police will feel more like they are giving out a parking ticket then capturing some criminal. They will certainly not be going out of there way to cite people with a measly fine. They will likely only cite people who are blatant about their consumption. Catching someone for an arrestable offense always justifies an officers time and effort whether it is for marijuana possession or a serious assault. This policy change strips away the justification for wasting the taxpayers’ money and redirects the polices’ attention to more serious issues.
Before this policy change, officers already had the option to cite instead of arrest someone for public consumption. The change in policy simply mandates a citation instead of leaving it up to the discretion of the officer. The new change will of course not apply to minors or people that have outstanding warrants. This law also won’t apply to the large area of the capital that is considered “federal land”. Cannabis is still illegal on the federal level and violators could face federal penalties for consuming and possessing marijuana. Records have shown that possession arrests have been falling ever since marijuana was legalized in D.C. in 2014. The same can not be said for public consumption arrests. They rose from less than 100 in 2014 to almost 300 the past couple of years. It seems the police are targeting the same group of people in a different but legal way. The policy change put forward this past week is targeting this practice and aims to strengthen relationships between members of the cannabis community and the police force.
I would like to think that before the change was made, officers went with a citation more often than not when someone was caught smoking in a public area. While there is no data on how many people were offered citations over an arrest, the number of arrests were far too high. Nobody gets arrested for drinking in public unless they are being obnoxious or are a danger to themselves and others. Cannabis should be given similar treatment and even more leniency then this harmful substance. This issue does seem like a minor thing to discuss considering many states are still arresting people for possession regardless of where they consume it. However, it is important that the punishment always reflects the crime so that the majority of people respect the law and those who enforce it.
There seems to be one common similarity among the different states and countries that have moved to legalize marijuana. Each law mentions the issue of public consumption and explains that it is still illegal. Even though the punishment for consuming in public is minor in most jurisdictions, the only legal place the law allows consumption without penalty is your own private property. If you look at any other recreational substance that is popular in our society, it’s clear that it is not a reasonable expectation for people to never consume marijuana outside of their own private property. The local city council in Calgary is concerned with this issue and wants to address it before legalization even takes effect in Canada.
One of the issues that are brought up by opponents of public consumption areas is that there will be a rise in impaired driving rates in cities that allow these type of businesses to run. The truth is that if lawmakers were truly that concerned about the dangers of impaired driving, alcohol wouldn’t be served at nearly every restaurant and corner store. Alcohol has been proven through numerous studies to have a much larger impact on motor skills and leads to more aggressive driving behaviors then marijuana. Not to mention drunk driving is responsible for more than 10,000 deaths a year Anybody that has used both will tell you the same thing. However, the availability of more dangerous substances for public consumption by itself doesn’t justify allowing these places to operate. The fact that there are enormous amounts of people who visit/live in Calgary without owning any property means legally they can’t use marijuana at all. Why make it legal in the first place if only property owners have the right to consume? This essentially keeps prohibition in place for the rest of the local population. People will of course not abide by these rules and smoke in public places regardless, so it’s only sensible they establish designated areas to help regulate where it is used.
Canada’s legalization measure not only banned public consumption of marijuana but it also prohibited its use in apartment buildings, condominiums, and hotels. It seems counterintuitive that the country wanted to eliminate smoking in these locations but did not offer any alternative in order to make this law reasonable. This is why the city council is taking matters into its own hands. It is proposing that there be four separate locations that were selected in relation to their distance from schools and areas frequented by children. All of these locations would be located in Ward 9 and within a relative proximity of one another. Even though the public is most likely going to be in agreement and support the availability of cannabis clubs, the government wants to reach out and receive feedback before the 9th of September. The committee will be holding a meeting on the 9th of October where the public can also make comments in person about the important issue. Calgary should have a clear decision made by the time the new law goes into effect so consumers won’t have to worry about being prosecuted for consuming a legal product.