Most pot-re­lated driv­ing tick­ets is­sued in Van­cou­ver tied to im­proper stor­age

The Province - - NEWS - NICK EAGLAND [email protected]­media.com Twit­ter.com/nick­eagland

Van­cou­ver po­lice is­sued 51 cannabis-re­lated driv­ing tick­ets in the 12 weeks fol­low­ing the le­gal­iza­tion of recre­ational cannabis, most to peo­ple not keep­ing pot in orig­i­nal, sealed pack­ag­ing or out of reach of driv­ers and pas­sen­gers.

The tick­ets were handed out be­tween Oct. 17, the day the fed­eral Cannabis Act came into force, and Jan. 6. The ma­jor­ity of the fines (43) were for im­proper stor­age of cannabis inside a ve­hi­cle by the driver or pas­sen­ger, each for about $230, Const. Jason Doucette said in an email.

Two more tick­ets were is­sued for con­sum­ing cannabis while op­er­at­ing a ve­hi­cle ($575), three were for con­sum­ing it while the ve­hi­cle was be­ing op­er­ated by some­one else ($230), two were for op­er­at­ing a ve­hi­cle while the driver or an­other per­son was smok­ing or vap­ing cannabis ($230), and one was for a mi­nor op­er­at­ing a ve­hi­cle with cannabis in it ($230).

Crim­i­nal de­fence lawyer Kyla Lee of Acu­men Law in Van­cou­ver said she has only “a hand­ful” of clients who are cur­rently dis­put­ing cannabis-re­lated tick­ets, cit­ing two rea­sons for the low num­ber.

“The VPD’s fo­cus has not been any­thing re­lated to cannabis en­force­ment,” she said. “Other than cannabis-im­paired driv­ing, they’re gen­er­ally tak­ing a hands-off ap­proach to the cannabis laws and leav­ing that to the Com­mu­nity Safety Unit that we will even­tu­ally see.”

The other rea­son, of­fi­cers have told her, is there has been a grace pe­riod for driv­ers to be educated on cannabis laws, so that some driv­ers trans­port­ing cannabis in im­proper con­tain­ers get warn­ings rather than tick­ets, she said.

“Gen­er­ally, the warn-first and ex­plain-the-law ap­proach seems to be what they’re favour­ing do­ing,” she said.

Van­cou­ver po­lice data on al­co­hol-re­lated tick­ets was not im­me­di­ately avail­able Fri­day af­ter­noon. But Lee said those con­tinue to be sig­nif­i­cantly more com­mon than tick­ets for cannabis.

Provin­cially, po­lice recorded an av­er­age of 15,911 im­paired-driv­ing of­fences each year be­tween 2006-2016, ac­cord­ing to Min­istry of Pub­lic Safety records.

“We’re still see­ing lots of al­co­hol-re­lated in­ves­ti­ga­tions by the po­lice,” she said. “Ob­vi­ously, peo­ple aren’t get­ting a lot of tick­ets for open liquor in a ve­hi­cle, but we’ve also had that law ... around for so long that ev­ery­body knows it.”

With uncer­tainty over how U.S. bor­der of­fi­cials might han­dle Cana­di­ans’ past cannabis ci­ta­tions, Lee rec­om­mends driv­ers dis­pute any cannabis-re­lated ticket so they don’t face a life­time ban from travel into the U.S.

“You don’t want any­thing on your record that’s ac­ces­si­ble to a bor­der guard that sug­gests that you’ve used or pos­sessed cannabis,” she warned.

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