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Newshawk: Blaine Dowdle - HUMAN
Pubdate: Friday, March 5, 2004
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Contact: lettertoed@t...
Author: Betsy Powell

Growing pot war focus of summits

One aims at co-ordinated strategy
The other ridicules the effort

Betsy Powell
Crime Reporter

Heavy hitters in law enforcemant, government, banking, real estate, insurance and public utilities are participating in a two-day "Green-Tide Summit" to find ways to combat the explosion of indoor marijuana grow operations in Ontario.

Down the street a shadow summit called the "Green Truth Summit," was taking place yesterday comprised of a small group of marijuana advocates who were also setting strategies to fight what they call the "destructive" and ultimately futile attempts to stamp out marijuana grow operations.

Billed as the first summit of its kind in the province, the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police summit is the initial step in developing a co-ordinated action plan to fight a war against illegal grow-ops that police clearly have no hope of winning on their own, said Monte Kwinter, the minister of community safety and correctional services.

The summit, held at provincial government offices near Queen's Park, was open to the media for the first hour. It began with several "overviews" of marijuana grow operations in Ontario, including a slide show accompanied by the ominous theme music from the movie Pearl Harbor.

Opening remarks by Kwinter and police stressed the theme that law enforcement agencies need private-sector help to eliminate grow-ops. "This is a community problem that can be addressed only if we pool our talents and resources and work together," Kwinter said.

Outside the conference room, he didn't specify what role banking, real estate and the insurance industry could play in combatting grow-ops.

Kwinter was pressed to explain how he can favour the federal Liberals' promise to eliminate criminal records for those caught with small quantities of marijuana while calling for the elimination of indoor grow-ops.

"This product (from grow-ops) is not being used in Canada," Kwinter told reporters. "There is marijuana grown in the fields. Thar growth is being used for domestic use."

New Democrat MPP Peter Kormos, who attended both summits, said Kwinter and the organizers of the Green Tide Summit are missing the point that prohibition of marijuana is what fuels the grow-ops. "It's the huge profits in marijuana that draws organized crime to marijuana cultivation. This conference ... should call on the federal government to legalize marijuana, one of the most popular intoxicants in North America, regulate it, tax it and control its distribution and that would get organized crime out of the picture."

In the afternoon session accross the street at the Green Truth Summit, Vancouver pot activist Marc Emery, who obtained media credentials to the Green Tide Summit as an editor of Cannabis Culture magazine, took delight in recounting the presentations he had seen earlier, referring to the many "exaggerations and dramatizing."

"Everything they're advocating is more of the poison we have got today," he said. "This summit is here just to make sure the information about what's really going on gets out."

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