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Newshawk: puff_tuff
Pubdate: Tue, 19 Feb 2002
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Page A7
Copyright: 2002, The Globe and Mail Company
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


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. 

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