Nelson Police Department Chief Wayne Holland

Nelson chief supports tickets for pot possession

Top cops from across the country think ticketing for pot possession is better than jail.

Top cops from across the country think ticketing for pot possession is better than jail.

Nelson Police Department’s Wayne Holland is among Canadian chiefs of police who met in Winnipeg this week where a resolution was passed suggesting officers should have the option of writing tickets to penalize pot users caught with less than 30 grams of bud.

Canadian chiefs say this would be more effective and efficient than laying criminal charges.

Holland agrees that this process would eliminate unnecessary red tape for both law enforcement and the public. A ticket would mean no criminal record, no court costs, no cost of a lawyer and the matter would come to a quick conclusion unless the ticket was challenged.

Because pot use is prevalent in Nelson, ticketing would be a “good fit,” he said.

“The NPD already initiates and processes more criminal code charges of simple drug possession per capita than almost anywhere in BC,” Holland told the Star.

“I think the last media article stated we were second highest — no pun intended — as regards enforcement, so this initiative would allow us to deal with such matters in a few minutes as opposed to a few months.”

His officers catching people puffing would be able to stay on the beat instead of returning back to the detachment to complete administrative work. And the ticketed person wouldn’t have to be jailed. The marijuana issue would be dealt with in a fashion similar to being ticketed for consuming liquor in public.

Trafficking marijuana and driving while under the influence would still be handled as a criminal manner, but the majority of cases arising involve people smoking recreationally.

While tough penalties for pot are becoming passé, turning a blind eye isn’t the way to go either, said Holland. Ticketing is a way to address the changing attitudes toward marijuana while still policing in a professional manner.

“This will save time and money and allow us to do what is expected of us, on a transitional basis, until such time as society finally decides on the level of tolerance it wants to have vis-a-vis drug consumption.”

While marijuana consumption is common in the Kootenay region and some people believe there is a lax attitude within the communities, Holland explained not everyone is on board with BC bud.

“We do receive a substantial number of complaints from citizens… and these concerns from individuals who are not pro marijuana need to be responded to and addressed,” he said.

Holland has attended several annual meetings of Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police over the years. He sits as a director of BC’s and the Yukon’s Criminal Intelligence Bureau as well as the BC Association of Chiefs of Police and the BC Municipal Chiefs of Police Association. Through such organizations, he continues to build and maintain professional contacts nationwide as well as gaining valuable knowledge.

“It is also a role that not many citizens are aware of,” said Holland. “Being a member of those entities keeps me current in regards to best practices in policing from a national as well as a provincial perspective — and allows me to access a lot of research and information on programs that will benefit Nelson.”

Other issues of note at the Canadian chiefs’ association meeting are use of social media in communicating with the public in crisis situations, using cadets in departments and how to best sustain policing given increasing costs.

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