Toronto to vote on decriminalizing marijuana possession

(CNN) — The Toronto city council will be voting Tuesday to decide whether to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana in an effort to get illegal drugs out of the hands of children and away from youth.

The Board of Health will likely vote on the proposal, which would make possession of any amount of marijuana a low priority for police and public health officers, when it meets in the afternoon.

If passed, the plan will then move to council, where city officials could formally approve it.

“The City of Toronto can no longer wait for the federal government to take action to ensure that all Canadians have access to a full range of medicines and services,” the Toronto Public Health department wrote in a statement.

If the measure passes, it will make possession of up to 30 grams of cannabis a low-level infraction that would result in a fine of up to $100, according to the city’s website.

Nearly 70% of adults aged 18 to 25 think cannabis use should be decriminalized and 64% of those in the same age group are in favor of legalizing marijuana for adults, according to a 2016 HuffPost/YouGov poll.

The proposal comes just as legalization is coming, after Canada’s Liberal Party government — which campaigned on a promise to legalize recreational use of marijuana — set a federal election for October 2019.

After legalization, the federal government will establish provincial regulations that all provinces and territories will administer. Each province and territory will have different penalties for possession.

Possession of up to 30 grams of cannabis is not currently considered a crime in Canada, but some say moving to decriminalize it could help get illegal drugs out of kids’ hands.

In general, private adults are only supposed to possess and consume marijuana in private. Having it out in public is illegal — even when shared with friends, as in a stoner’s haze.

“The number one cause of death from drugs is alcohol,” University of Toronto medical professor Winfried J. Ude, chairman of emergency medicine and adjunct professor of psychiatry at Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine, told CNN last year. “When the government starts to decriminalize drugs — whether it’s marijuana or other drugs — it’s going to make it a lot easier for kids to get access to drugs.”

An advocacy group for the homeless also supports the plan, since it would remove the fear that anyone caught with a small amount of cannabis would be arrested.

The vote on the plan comes just a few weeks after the city council passed a resolution to support marijuana legalization.

The resolution was welcomed by those advocating for the legalization of marijuana, including M.K. Another, a nurse and minister in the spiritual community at Sheridan College, the day after it was voted on.

“It is with a lot of gratitude that I thank the City of Toronto for their advocacy,” She said in a letter to the city’s mayor and city council. “(Tuesday’s) vote is a chance for the city to take a stand against their role in creating more problems for us by continuing to tax, restrict and limit the rights of patients to take care of themselves, their families and their communities with medicine that will put us all at greater risk.”

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