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Top Mountie stays mum on option to issue tickets for pot

Vancouver Sun - September 5, 2013

By Douglas Quan

Police leaders from Victoria to Halifax have spoken out publicly in recent days in support of giving officers the option to ticket people for minor pot possession instead of laying criminal charges.

But one leader, who, arguably, is in the best position to take this proposal to lawmakers in Ottawa - RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson - has been silent on the issue.

Asked this week if Paulson could share his views on the marijuana-ticketing idea, a spokesman said the commissioner was "not prepared" to comment.

"The RCMP, as an organization, does not comment on proposed legislation," Sgt. Greg Cox said in an email.

Some observers suggested Wednesday that the top Mountie faces constraints making his views known on policy matters, particularly if those views go against the position of the Conservative government.

Liberal Sen. Colin Kenny, who frequently comments on public safety matters, said it's likely that Stephen Harper will use the marijuana debate as a wedge issue in the next election, citing the prime minister's recent remark that Liberal leader Justin Trudeau - who has admitted to smoking pot since becoming an MP - is "promoting marijuana use for our children."

"Essentially he wants to paint Trudeau's comment as one that encourages young people to smoke pot and wants to exploit concerns parents might have with kids experimenting with any drug," Kenny said. "I think

Commissioner Paulson understands that. He's putting himself squarely into that issue the moment he starts talking about it."

Paulson, Kenny said, is "expected to be part of the Harper communications team and strategy. That's the pressure on him."

Robert Gordon, director of the criminology school at Simon Fraser University, said Paulson now finds himself "between a rock and a hard place."

"It is an unstable policy environment, lots of fog out there, and Paulson is probably unsure of his footing given the federal government's position."

Harper has previously said that the government is looking "very carefully" at the marijuana-ticketing proposal.

Asked Wednesday if Paulson is free to speak his mind on policy debates, Jean-Christophe de Le Rue, a spokesman for Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney, said via email "the role of the RCMP is to enforce Canadian laws and we know we can count on them to protect the interests of families across this country."

Paulson was not among the police chiefs who gathered in Winnipeg last month and who voted overwhelmingly to support a resolution urging the federal government to amend drug laws to give officers the option of issuing a ticket for possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana.