Opinion: Antiquated marijuana laws don’t mean police shouldn’t do their job

Pat Trudeau believes police handled the pot-selling store in downtown Peterborough appropriately

Pat Trudeau says police have no choice but to enforce existing laws, however ridiculous and antiquated they may be (stock photo)

Last week in Peterborough, police made a few visits to a downtown storefront. The first was to serve notice the store was operating illegally and committing crimes by doing so, and the second was to raid the business and shut it down. The issue with this store was that — instead of selling shoes, chocolate or coffee — it was selling weed.

I’m not going to name the business. If you want to know it, head to the interwebs.

Now, before I continue, I feel it’s important that I make two clarifications:

  1. I call it weed, not marijuana. I’m not a horticulturalist nor am I your dad lecturing you about life decisions.
  2. I’ve never smoked weed in my entire life.

The buzz that came out of the raid late last week was pretty mixed: anti-weed and anti-police.

People seemed offended at the prospect that a store would be selling drugs out of storefront in plain sight in the middle of their beautiful town, as much as they seemed offended that their tax dollars were being wasted on something so “trivial”.

I believe the police did an amazing job of handling the situation. Knowing that the business was committing offences out of a storefront and broadcasting it on the six o’clock news no less, they had to act. Diplomatically they delivered a notice to the store owner on Wednesday last week advising the store owner that he was violating the criminal code.

By doing so, police gave the owner more notice than most would ever be privy to and also opened the door to a resolution that would have potentially resulted in no arrests or charges. It was basically a “Hey, we see you doing that thing and if you could just do everyone a favour and stop doing that thing, that would be great”.

Instead, the owner opened for business as usual on Thursday morning and police were left with no other choice but to raid it and close it.

The reason why I think the police did a great job is because they clearly didn’t want to have to escalate the situation and gave the business owner an unusual opportunity to stop. Police don’t want to have to arrest people for smoking weed. Hell, I’ve know police officers who smoked weed. The laws making it illegal are both ridiculous and antiquated.

Weed is no more a gateway drug than sugar, nicotine, caffeine or alcohol — yet surprisingly you can buy all of those things in spades any day of the week. How many people a year does sugar, cigarettes, and booze kill? Now how many people does weed kill every year? Look at those numbers and then get back to me about the dangers of weed.

As we’ve grown as a society, we’ve become more accepting of things that were once taboo. One of those things is smoking weed. The Trudeau government made the promise to legalize weed during the election last year and in April it was announced that legislation to legalize weed would be tabled in spring 2017, marking a change that will be welcomed by most Canadians (and likely the police).

The amount of work police do for drug offences related to weed is a huge pain in the ass, but a necessary one under the criminal code. It’s the police’s job to enforce the criminal code, not to decide which laws within that code to enforce.

No matter how ridiculous it is that a growing or possessing a pot plant is illegal, it is illegal. If you want to be pissed off at someone for that, be pissed off at your grandparents and parents who were the primary architects of the war on drugs but don’t for a second get upset with an organization whose sole duty is to enforce the laws created by your forefathers.

Or be frustrated with your current federal government that is taking their sweet time to address a complex issue.

And to those who feel the police have “bigger fish to fry” or who are “wasting your tax dollars”, I have to ask you: do you think they just stopped doing everything else last week? That once a guy opened a store selling weed, the entire police department pulled themselves off the street, stopped all investigations, and planned their attack on the big bad drug dealer?

I don’t have inside information, but if I were a betting man I’d say no.

Police — just like government — are multitaskers covering a number of issues. Just because the one making the headlines in the news isn’t one you feel is important, or it targets a specific illegal activity that you happen to be a fan of, does not mean they’re wasting their time or frying small fish.