The federal government rejected an NDP motion Monday calling for the decriminalization of marijuana possession, arguing that doing so would benefit criminal organizations.
"Canadians, both adults and youth, would continue to purchase a product of unknown potency and quality while fueling the profits of organized crime," said Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould.
The Liberals have promised to roll out legislation to legalize and regulate marijuana next spring. Until then, marijuana remains illegal under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, which means Canadians can—and are—still being arrested for an act as minor as passing around a joint.
In the House of Commons Monday, the NDP put forward a motion asking the federal government to decriminalize possession of pot for personal use right away.
"Despite Justin Trudeau's clear campaign promise to immediately fix marijuana laws in Canada, the government has done nothing for eight months except continue the senseless practice of handing out criminal records for personal use," said NDP Justice Critic Murray Rankin in a statement.
According to the Canadian Press, Rankin said Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould could address this problem by ordering the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, which prosecutes drug crimes, to stop pursuing possession-based charges.
But Wilson-Raybould said the government has no plans to do that. Her parliamentary secretary Bill Blair, who is leading the Liberal's pot legalization file, said decriminalizing possession of marijuana prior to having new regulations in place is a bad idea.
"It would be reckless in the extreme and perhaps create much greater risk for our communities to remove all control from cannabis." Blair has previously said enforcement should continue as normal until the laws change.
In an announcement about weed legalization made at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on drugs, Canada's Health Minister Jane Philpott said, "We know it is impossible to arrest our way out of this problem."
However, the decision of whether or not to arrest people is left up to a police officer's discretion.
According to Statistics Canada data, a Canadian is arrested every nine minutes because of marijuana.
Photo via Flickr user momento mori
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