Mistaken confiscation in New West raises questions about legal limit on pot possession

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association says it’s still not clear why federal laws limit the amount of cannabis one can carry in public after pot was mistakenly confiscated by the New Westminster Police Department.

An officer was overheard by a Record reporter saying pot had to be returned to its owner after another officer had mistakenly seized cannabis from an individual.

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“The cannabis was seized as the officer thought it was over the legal limit to possess in public,” said NWPD spokesperson Sgt. Jeff Scott. “Depending on the packaging it can be deceiving as to what the quantity is. Our officers have been trained and continue to receive ongoing training in regards to the new cannabis laws.”

The legal limit for personal possession of cannabis in public is 30 grams, according to the Cannabis Act, Canada’s law governing the newly legal drug.

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association says it hasn’t heard of any cases of mistakenly confiscated pot since cannabis was legalized on Oct. 17 last year.

Acting policy director Meghan McDermott said in an email that the BCCLA is supportive of legal limits to liberties “if there is a rational connection between the limitation … and a pressing and substantial objective that the government is trying to achieve with the law.”

“Given that we don’t have clear evidence about why the 30-gram personal possession limit is reasonable (and properly balances liberty with the bigger public policy goal), I have to admit that we are skeptical as to whether this limitation (and others) makes sense,” McDermott said.

“There is no analogous limitation on how much alcohol I may possess. In learning about the new laws, I sensed that the government was being much more restrictive than is necessary, and we are starting to see courts strike down some of the limits.”

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