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New legislation brings out critics from all corners

By Hempology | May 28, 2003

From the Times Colonist, May 28, 2003

by Jeff Rud and Jeff Bell

Both provincial officials and marijuana advocates have found fault with new
federal laws governing the substance.

B.C. Solicitor General Rich Coleman is critical of federal marijuana
legislation introduced Tuesday, saying it will clog up the courts and
offer little concrete help in battling organized crime’s grip on the drug

Phillipe Lucas of the Vancouver Island Compassion Society whose non-profit
group supplies marijuana to people deemed to have medical need, also saw
little to cheer about. He said the move to punish marijuana cultivation is going
to hurt the small-scale grower, not the big operator.

Coleman had previously asked the federal government for resources to fight the
“whole marijuana grow business in B.C.”

“They haven’t provided those resources, so far, in this discussion, so I’m pretty
disappointed,” Coleman said.

“They’re going to spend tens of millions of dollars on advertising … and (will be)
putting very little money into fighting the issues in and around crime and organized
crime with regards to marijuana.”

Premier Gordon Campbelll was also critical of the money the federal government
announced it would put aside for law enforcement efforts and education, information,
research and treatment programs aimed at curbing drug use.

“That $240 million would be far better spent on law enforcement, dealing with
organized crime directly,” he said.

Lucas expressed concern that organized crime might not be targeted by the new laws.

“I have serious concerns about putting people in jail for a small amount of
cultivation,” Lucas said. “We’re not going to see the big grower go to jail,
we’re going to see the university student with a closetful of plants.”

Lucas said he also sees medical marijuana users being adversely affected by
the cultivation rules, which could affect their access to the drug.

The federal legislation would make possession of up to 15 grams of marijuana -
enough to roll about 15 or 20 joints – a minor offence punishable by a fine.

But Coleman said the federal government has no idea how the pot tickets will
be issued and enforced or how fines will be collected. Tickets will have to be
issued in two languages, Coleman said, and offenders will have to be tracked

About 1,500 people were charged with simple possession of marijuana in B.C. last
year. But Coleman said the system dealt with 12,000 additional cases of people
who could have been charged with simple possession but were not.

“Give the police (the right to) ticket, that will mean 12,000 more people will
get charged with simple possession of marijuana next year,” Coleman said. “Now
the question is: how do you collect those 12,000 tickets? How do you administer the
justice in and around it? Who pays for those costs? I suggest the federal government

The cange may not necessarily be good news for marijuana users, either, Coleman said.
Previously, police generally didn’t proceed with simple possession cases.

“In actual fact, it probably made it worse for those people, not better,” Coleman

The legislation also boosts the maximum sentence for illegal growers to 14 years
in prison from the current sevel. But Coleman said penalties are no good without
the means to enforce them.

However, Victoria Police Chief Paul Battershill saw some positive aspects to
the laws. He said the increased penalties for grow operations make good sense
from a law enforcement point of view.

“Organized crime is making a huge amoutn of money conducting grow activities
and then transporting the stuff to the States. Although it hasn’t happened a whole
lot here, there’s been a lot of crime associated with grow houses on the mainland,
including beatings and murders at the scene of the houses, and viscious dogs. It’s
ruining a lot of communities, it’s certainly an epidemic on the mainland.”

Battershill said he is hopeful a solid anti-drug message can emerge from the process
to stress the ruinous effects of such drugs as crystal methamphetamine, cocaine
and heroin.

Ottawa’s Pot Law

Highlights of the federal government’s new marijuana bill and drug strategy:

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