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Courts have put pot laws in limbo

By Hempology | January 19, 2005

Pssst! Want to make a lot of illegal money with almost no risk? Try growing marijuana in British Columbia.

Thats what the B.C. court statistics show, anyway. Figures published by The Vancouver Sun show that, thanks to a lenient court system, the chances of being jailed after a conviction for growing pot are about one in seven.
Your chances of being fined are also low about one in four and the average fine is about $1,800, ludicrously low considering the profits to be made from pot.
Meanwhile, the majority of those convicted in B.C. courts of growing marijuana six out of 10 receive neither jail time nor a fine.
And the odds are even better for those lucky enough to be convicted in Vancouver: Only about one in 11 gets jail time, while only one in 10 gets a fine.
Four out of five growers leave court with no penalties at all.
These figures are dismaying for Solicitor General Rich Coleman and for the provinces police forces, who spend time, manpower and money making about 1,500 raids a year against growops.
As solicitor general, Coleman isnt allowed to directly influence judges, but hes getting the word out that he would like tougher sentences.
I think we have to recognize that the courts, though independent, have to be reflective of the needs of the communities they serve, Coleman says.
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.
Actually, its likely that the provinces judges are trying, in their own way, to be reflective of the communities they serve.
For a start, pot-growing is a multibillion-dollar business in B.C.; that means thousands of people depend on it for their income.
Second, poll after poll shows that a majority of B.C. residents want pot legalized, although the same polls show people want tougher penalties, but not necessarily prison, for marijuana growers which, when you think about it, doesnt make much sense. If marijuana were legal, somebody would have to grow it.
There is considerable harm from illegal grow-ops, including the risk of fire due to unsafe electrical wiring and their financial support for organized crime. But most of the harm arises from the fact that growing is illegal, and therefore cannot be regulated as a law-abiding agri-business.
Meanwhile, of course, the province is losing hundreds of millions in potential tax revenue, further millions on the costs of policing and prosecuting, only to be shot down in the courts, and a few million more on incarcerating the very few growers who do, almost miraculously, actually end up in jail.
If marijuana were legal, or at least decriminalized, then grow-ops would be producing a legal or not illegal product, with fewer of these problems and expenses.
That said, as the law stands now, the growing of marijuana is illegal, and until the laws are changed, judges should not be taking the law into their own hands, as it were, and refusing to enforce the law.
What this does is create grower and public disrespect for the law in general, while the very real problems connected with illegal grow-ups continue to fester.
In other words, we have the worst of both worlds in B.C. because pot-growing exists in a kind of shadowy Neverland: its illegal, but not really illegal.
The law against grow-ops is the law, and B.C. judges should be enforcing that law until such time as the politicians summon the moral courage, or just common sense, to change it.

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