Pubdate: Tue, 19 Feb 2002
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2002, The Globe and Mail Company
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/mjcn.htm (Cannabis - Canada)
COMMONS PANEL HEARS ABOUT POT-GROWING
TORONTO -- Calls for Ottawa to ease the criminal consequences of drug use
were all but eclipsed yesterday by law-enforcement tales about Canada's
"staggering" hydroponic marijuana industry.
Toronto police Chief Julian Fantino was among several Ontario police
officials who explained the difficulties of policing pot growers to the
House of Commons committee on non-medical drugs.
"Hydroponic marijuana prosecutions result in sentences in the range of six
months to a year, hardly a deterrent to the organized criminal groups that
can bring in $400,000 a year from 400 plants."
Chief Fantino said Canada lacks a coherent, co-ordinated, national drug
strategy, something he has advocated during the course of his 33-year career.
"It's the dilemma we're all facing" he told committee vice-chairman Randy
White, a Canadian Alliance MP.
"The profusion of marijuana growing operations across Canada is
staggering," Waterloo Region police Superintendent Bill Stevens said. "In
the province of Ontario, it's a billion-dollar industry, and getting bigger."
Operation Greensweep, last month's single-day national crackdown on grow
houses across Canada, netted about $47-million worth of plants and resulted
in 136 arrests and 190 charges, Supt. Stevens said.
While the law-enforcement sentiments were largely at odds with those of the
medical experts and social workers who spoke at the morning hearings, they
all agreed on one thing: the need for a co-ordinated national approach to
the drug problem, and fast.
"What we need is a national drug strategy, as of now," said Diane Riley of
the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy and Harm Prevention Network.
The traditional law-enforcement model of using criminal sanctions as a
deterrent simply doesn't work, and can even be an incentive to adventurous,
risk-taking teens, Ms. Riley told the committee.