Prof. Andrew Hathaway
Prof. Andrew Hathaway

With the federal government introducing legislation that would relax penalties for drug possession charges, a University of Guelph sociologist said the move suggests the Canadian public has grown more open to less severe punishments for drug offences.

Dr. Andrew Hathaway is a professor in the Department of Sociology who researches drug policy in Canada and around the world, including harm reduction policies, drug normalization trends and policy development.

He said it’s noteworthy that this legislation appears to have the support of opposition parties, including the Conservatives – which introduced many of the mandatory minimum sentences for drug offences currently in place.

“This move reflects a greater appetite for policy reform informed by social justice as well as public health priorities — as seen most recently in Canada with the legalization of cannabis.” Hathaway said.

The legislation would also allow for more conditional sentences where appropriate, and encourage greater use of diversion programs, such as drug counselling and community service.

“Whereas diversion has been long employed in practice, this is a significant reform, suggesting changes in priorities in response to changing political realities,” Hathaway said.

Hathaway teaches in U of G’s criminal justice and public policy programs. He is available for interviews.


Dr. Andrew Hathaway