Police Chief Supports Marijuana Decriminalization

Ottawa police Chief Vern White says he isn’t interested in giving marijuana users criminal records, and would support discussing decriminalization — with one caveat.

“My only concern about the word ‘decriminalizing’ is the suggestion to the public that (marijuana) is not a dangerous drug,” he said.

The Citizen asked White about decriminalization following a recent community meeting.

An Angus Reid poll

released earlier this month shows a majority of Canadians remain in favour of legalizing the plant. And last Tuesday, hundreds flocked to

Parliament Hill to smoke up in an annual ritual in support of decriminalization.

“If this is about, ‘we don’t want people to have a criminal record for possession of marijuana,’ that message is a good message,” White said. “Because I don’t want them to have a criminal record for possession of marijuana either.”

But the police chief said that the levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the active ingredient in marijuana — has increased several-fold since the 1970s.

He also pointed to studies that link consumption of marijuana to the onset ofpsychoses. A 2007 review of 35 studies found users were 41 per cent more likely to experience delusions, hallucinations or schizophrenia, though the researchers noted that the lifetime risk of contracting a chronic psychotic disorder had a probability of less than three per cent.

“So don’t say it doesn’t hurt,” White said. “It’s like saying alcohol doesn’t have a negative impact. Of course it does. But let’s focus on do we want them to have a criminal record for simple possession? If that’s the focus, I’m all for that discussion. But if it’s around, ‘it’s not hurting people,’ … I don’t agree with that.”

White said he believes police forces across the country would not oppose decriminalization.

“There’s not a police chief in the country, I think, that sits there salivating over the fact that people with simple possession charges have criminal records,” White said. “I’ll tell you the truth — most guys don’t get charged with marijuana anyway. Most people who have marijuana end up with it heeled into the ground, or with a verbal warning.”

Statistics Canada figures for 2008 show that, of more than 50,100 incidents in which police encountered a cannabis possessor, police laid possession charges less than half of the time.

But in Ontario, 15,787 incidents led to 10,204 people charged. Those under the age of 18 made up less than 20 per cent of people charged.

White said he’s “good” with the 30-gram personal amount that the federal Liberals suggested when they toyed with decriminalization, though they ultimately proposed to decriminalize a reduced amount of 15 grams.

The bill died shortly before the 2006 federal election that saw Stephen Harper’s Conservatives take power. The Harper government has said it does not support decriminalization.

White said anyone carrying 30 grams in pre-rolled joints or ‘dime’ bags would likely face trafficking charges.

A ‘dime’ of marijuana weighs about 0.7 grams and sells for $10, though some dealers will sell whole grams for that price.

A full 30 grams bought in bulk might be had for $200 to $250, but at that weight it would more likely be sold as an ounce — slightly more than 28 grams.

“My support will be in having a frank discussion about whether or not we want people to have criminal records for possession of marijuana,” White said.

– Article from The Ottawa Citizen.



  1. Anonymous on

    decriminalization doesnt make any sense. you can have it, u can smoke, it but you cant produce or sell it? seems like a goofy concept to me. maybe legalization and regulation would work better.

  2. Anonymous on

    “So don’t say it doesn’t hurt,” White said. “It’s like saying alcohol doesn’t have a negative impact. Of course it does. But let’s focus on do we want them to have a criminal record for simple possession? If that’s the focus, I’m all for that discussion. But if it’s around, ‘it’s not hurting people,’ … I don’t agree with that.”

    It’s basically like he’s saying if you guys have more police work for me to do we will figure out what’s right and what’s wrong but if you cut out the police work than I don’t agree!

  3. Anonymous on

    I think the “stronger weed” lines are a little misleading. Its not like weed growers are using gene therapy… they are simply taking the strongest plants and making sure their next crop is ALL just as strong. The strong strains have always been around… you just needed to have better connections! Anyways, I fired off an email of gratitude to the chief and I think everyone who thinks this is awesome really should too!

  4. Anonymous on

    I do not wish to date myself but I smoked my first joint of marijuana in the summer of 66. It was called ” Black African” from Kenya. It was smuggled in to the country in Bongo drums, if any one remembers the bust. It was apparently not the first attempt. I would rate it top 5 on my list. So yes there are many high quality strains available, now grown right here in Canada. I do not find many and I mean very few that had the effect on 4 people that one joint of the weed we had in the summer of 66. Been spoiled ever since!!!

  5. Anonymous on

    Why is there so many sources stating that any weed earlier than 70’s is garbage… 20-30 yrs of genetic modifications might help a few kinds but even after those attempts, blueberry, which dates back to the late 70’s is still one of the best possible 4 decades later, if you have tried it, it is almost the best possible, if you can enjoy the effects like a true Connoisseur

  6. VapeApe on

    While your views on decriminalization are encouraging you’re still parroting some out dated and dis-proven information. You should know that these reported increased THC levels are both subjective not relevant to any real danger. Just as with alcohol there are varying strengths or proofs. Difference is alcohol overdose kills you but too much THC might cause you to take a nap. Legalization would allow the supplier to label the THC and CBD levels so users can make an informed choice. I got about as high back in the 70s as I do now. Good weed isn’t new. I do remember back then you didn’t get a bag of beautifully trimmed bud. You got plenty of leaf and sticks which if ground up to be tested would show lower THC levels than the nice clean nugs of today. So Chief, spare us the THC danger bullshit. That psychosis link is bullshit as well. I’d love to see the details of your “2007 review of 35 studies” but I doubt they even exist. Still in all you favor some level of decriminalization. Do more honest research. You’ll learn.

  7. Anonymous on

    Over my dead body !

  8. Anonymous on

    Will the management of this web site please stop sleeping in the same bed as police.Marc Emery you should know better than publish favorable articles on policemen.
    For those of you who got busted by police in their young years, tell me about the brutality of the bust itself when it happens and what marks did it left on your psyche and in your future life and career.
    So you and your police why dont you get lost…..
    You think I come on a marijuana web site to read about the police…Youve got to be creazier than I thought…

  9. Anonymous on

    Still leaves procurement in the hands of the real criminals! However, legalization of procurement takes the billions of dollars out of the hands of criminals and places a taxable commodity in every existing community in Canada. The currant right wing agenda does nothing but allowing the criminals to flourish.

  10. Anonymous on

    I think that it would be really nice if everyone who reads this article sends a quick email to Chief White ([email protected]) saying that they appreciate his candour, and that they hope that he can persuade other chiefs who feel the same way to speak out in such a manner. We can will only defeat this “war” with the police on our side, and not with them in standing in front of us.

    You can also leave an anonymous compliment at: http://www.ottawapolice.ca/en/ContactOttawaPolice/ContactOttawaPolice.aspx (if you do not want to email directly).

  11. Cat Caywood on

    A man who stands by his own opinion without blasting everyone else’s.