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60 per cent of B.C. marijuana growers receive no jail time or fine

By Hempology | January 18, 2005

BY CHAD SKELTON CanWest News Service
Fewer than one in seven people convicted of growing marijuana in B.C. over the past two years was sentenced to any time in jail, according to court statistics provided to The Vancouver Sun.

And growers were even less likely to face jail time in Vancouver where fewer than one in 13 received a jail sentence.
Indeed, the majority of marijuana growers in B.C. 59 per cent received neither jail time nor a fine. Instead, they received only probation or a conditional sentence to be served at home. In Vancouver, 83 per cent of growers received neither jail time nor a fine.
The maximum penalty for growing marijuana is seven years in prison. There is no minimum sentence.
B.C. Solicitor-General Rich Coleman said he is disappointed the courts arent handing down harsher sentences to marijuana growers.
I think we have to recognize that the courts, though independent, have to be reflective of the needs of the communities they serve, said Coleman.
I think its time that they recognize that the whole business of marijuana growing, tied into organized crime, is a serious pressure on our communities.
Carol Baird Ellan, chief judge of the B.C. provincial court, was not available Monday to comment on the sentencing statistics.
Bob Prior, director of federal prosecutions for Vancouver, also was not available for comment.
Inspector Paul Nadeau, head of the RCMPs Co-ordinated Marijuana Enforcement Team, said drug investigators are upset with sentences handed out by the courts.
Its very, very frustrating for the investigators when they hear numbers like this, he said.
Its quite clear when you look at sentences like that, theres very little risk and the money that can be made is a very high reward. Its not a surprise that people get into it.
Nadeau said he believes growers are increasingly moving to B.C. from other provinces and U.S. states where sentences are harsher.
The low sentences are attracting people to this criminal activity, he said. If the sentencing is not part of the solution, it becomes part of the problem.
The statistics which cover 1,717 marijuana convictions in B.C. from April 1, 2002, to March 31, 2004 were provided by the provincial governments court services department in response to a request from The Sun.
In gathering the data, the government only extracted the most serious penalty for each offence.
So, for example, someone who received both jail time and a fine would be recorded as receiving a jail sentence but not a fine.
The statistics suggest that, despite growing public anger over grow-ops and increased police resources devoted to the problem, B.C.s courts are even more lenient with growers than they were in the late-1990s.
The sentencing statistics also show that for growers sent to jail, the average sentence was six months 4.6 months for Vancouver growers.

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