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Hey, what are they smoking?

By Hempology | January 23, 2005

You can say this for Smith and friends: They’re not hiding from the law, not trying to profit from breaking it.

by Jack Knox

Times Colonist

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Ted Smith’s marijuana conviction hasn’t slowed the flow at the Cannabis Buyers’ Club.
The Johnson Street storefront is still open to the 1,400 or so people who say they need marijuana for medical purposes. A sign on the wall advertises a potluck (pun probably not intended) to mark this month’s ninth anniversary of the club, the oldest such organization in Canada.
At the reception desk sits a stack of flyers urging attendance at a rally to “protest Health Canada’s rules which make cannabis legal for medical purposes but consider food and skin products to be illegal.” That’s a reference to club founder Smith’s Jan. 7 conviction for selling ointments containing cannabis resin. He got a nine-month suspended sentence.
Smith was convicted again this week, this time for passing out joints at a pro-marijuana meeting at UVic in November 2000. Those gatherings have grown since then, with maybe 70 people joining in a circle at 4:20 p.m. every Wednesday to smoke dope and expound on its benefits. You can say this for Smith and friends: They’re not hiding from the law, not trying to profit from breaking it.
That’s unlike the commercial growers who have turned B.C. Bud into a multibillion-dollar industry. Those guys try to stay high-tech but low-key.
Not that they have much to fear from the law. The Vancouver Sun reported last week that just one in seven convicted B.C. growers gets any jail time at all. Most don’t even get fined. And remember, that’s just those who get convicted, let alone charged, let alone arrested. No wonder the wholesale price of pot has plunged; without fear of retribution, every man and his dog has a grow lab in the basement (including one at a municipally owned property in Saanich last weekend).
That must drive the police nuts. They bust their butts busting growers, only to see judges mete out sentences of two hugs a day and a week without television. The cops and courts seem to be at cross-purposes. Your tax dollars at work.
Politicians don’t provide much clarification. Ottawa made a big deal about doubling the maximum sentence for growers, but stayed silent on a minimum. The B.C. government huffs and puffs about getting tough with organized crime, but cut this year’s adult prison budget by $14 million.
All of which reflects the public’s ambivalence toward marijuana, in which a certain indifferent benevolence toward the likes of Smith — who, on the Threat-O-Metre, ranks well behind Osama bin Laden or, apparently, Luminara — muddily merges with the fear and loathing evoked by the organized criminals who have woven pot production into their cocaine-smuggling, meth-brewing, gun-running, tax-dodging, money-laundering, murderous ways. If our feelings are all over the map, it’s because we’ve tossed casual tokers, the Hells Angels, 13-year-old stoners, cancer patients, the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers and otherwise-upstanding dope-farmers into the same stew.
Meanwhile, the federal government’s decriminalization bill, which would provide for traffic-ticket-type fines but no criminal record for possession of small amounts, inches through Parliament. Liberal MP Keith Martin favours going even further, legalizing and regulating recreational use in the same way we regulate alcohol or tobacco. “That would be the worst news for organized crime,” he said Friday. Take the profit out of prohibition. As it is, we haven’t been nearly tough enough with organized crime, he says. You can agree with Martin’s solution or not, but few will deny something has to change. Either apply the law or alter it, but don’t pretend the current approach is having much effect.
“The status quo,” says Martin, “is not working for anybody.”

Topics: Articles, CD-5th, Winter 2005 | Comments Off

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