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STOP BILL C-26, by Ted Smith

By Hempology | January 8, 2008

Prime Minister Stephen Harper wants everyone growing cannabis for sale to go to jail for no less than six months. The Federal Conservative government has introduced legislation into the House of Commons that would see mandatory minimum sentences for a variety of cannabis offenses.

On Monday Dec 17, rallies will be held at noon at MP offices across Canada to protest Bill C-26. The International Hempology 101 Society will be organizing protests at the offices of Conservative MP Gary Lunn in Sidney and NDP MP Denise Savoie in Victoria. Liberal MP Dr. Keith Martin will join NDP MP Denise Savoie at the Victoria rally, to be held at the downtown library beside her constituency office. The NDP has opposed Bill C-26, and Denise will explain her position on the proposed laws and how the NDP supports drug policy reform and drug abuse prevention programs over mandatory minimum sentences. We can expect her to make statements similar to those made by her colleague, MP Libby Davies, who writes, “The only problem is, as history and reality shows us, this heavy handed reliance on law enforcement is not only a failure; it is a colossal failure, economically, socially, and culturally. Law enforcement regarding drugs typically targets low level dealers and users, and ironically re-enforces the monopoly of organized crime and the drug kingpins, who either escape enforcement or are in the best position to negotiate deals. In 1994, 28% of Canadians reported they had used illicit drugs.

By 2004 the percentage had risen to 45. Clearly enforcement has had little or no impact; quite the contrary, in fact, as drug use has increased.? On of the main reasons MP Dr. Keith Martin left the Conservatives to join the Liberals was their zeal for the drug war. “The groups that benefit the most from the status quo, from marijuana being illegal, and it is just a weed with its value elevated well beyond what it ought to be because it is illegal, are the organized crime gangs. They are making billions of dollars off the status quo, and those billions are used to do any number of things including: trafficking of weapons and people, prostitution, embezzlement, fraud and murder.? On April 20, 2007, Dr. Martin introduced private member’s Bill-431 in an attempt to decriminalize the possession of cannabis. The federal government currently spends $5.4 billion a year enforcing drug laws in Canada, 36 times the $147 million spent on prevention and treatment programs. In a 2006 Macleans Magazine poll 63% of Canadians wanted cannabis prohibition to end, with 93% supporting the use of the herb for medical purposes. Tax dollars would be better spent on health care with new revenues from licensed cannabis cultivators.

The effects of Bill C-26 will be felt far beyond the cannabis community. Courts and jails, which are already full, will become further clogged. Mandatory minimum sentences deter defendants from making plea bargains; so more trials and appeals will consume valuable court time. While small operators quit growing due to the increased risk, organized criminal groups will take advantage of higher prices.

Conviction in trafficking cannabis or cannabis resin in amount greater than 3 kg will receive a mandatory minimum 1 year sentence if it is done as part of a organized group (5 or more people), if there are threats, violence or any weapons present, or if the person has been convicted or a similar offence in the past ten years. That mandatory minimum grows to 2 years if the location the person was arrested in is frequented by youth under the age of 18 or if the offense occurred in a prison. Conviction of importing or exporting cannabis or resin for the purposes of trafficking will result in 1 year mandatory jail sentence. Anyone found guilty of production of cannabis resin for the purpose of trafficking will receive a minimum 1 year jail sentence, which goes up to 18 months if either a) rental property was used; b) the offence occurred in a residential area; c) youth under the age of 18 were in location; or d) if a trap was set-up in the location. The mandatory minimum sentence for growing less than 200 plants, even a single one, with the purpose of trafficking will be six months. That goes up to 9 months if any of the above conditions- a) to d)- are also proven in court. Growing between 200 and 500 plants will result in at least 1 year behind bars, unless conditions- a) to d)- are proven, in which case the mandatory minimum increases to 18 months. Anyone convicted of growing over 500 plants will receive a mandatory minimum sentence of 2 years in jail, unless conditions –a) to d)- are proven in court, in which case the minimum becomes 3 years in jail. The maximum sentence for cultivation of cannabis has been doubled from 7 to 14 years.

Other mandatory minimums have been proposed for other drug offences. There is only one way out of some these mandatory minimum sentences is if the crown consents that drug treatment might me a more appropriate response than jail. Drug treatment will not be available for anyone convicted of being part of a criminal organization, who used violence, threats or weapons in any way, if youth under the age of 18 were involved or frequented the area the offence occurred or if the incident happened in a prison. To compare with other mandatory minimums, someone convicted of importing/exporting prohibited weapons gets a minimum 1 year in jail, as does anyone caught selling weapons illegally or using a weapon during an offence.

The rallies on Dec 17 will only be the beginning of a national campaign to stop Bill C-26. By focusing energy upon MPs across Canada, we can convince the NDP, Liberals and Bloc Quebecois to stop the Conservatives plan to pass mandatory minimum sentences for cannabis growers. We need people to write letters and make phone calls to the offices of their MP, the leaders of the parties and the Justice Department demanding that Bill C-26 not become law. The rallies of Dec 17 are only the beginning of a campaign that will not end until Bill C-26 is defeated, passed in law or an election is called. We are preparing a list of phone numbers and emails in Victoria to plan quick protests in 2008 whenever a Conservative politician appears in town. Since we will have short notice for these protests, we will rely upon these simple means to spread the word. We need to constantly remind the moral minority that we disagree with these laws by showing how peaceful, intelligent, persistent and organized the cannabis community is in Victoria. There is a good chance that Bill C-26 will not pass 3rd reading in the House of Commons before the next election is called. When the next election is called, the cannabis culture needs to be vocal and represented at every opportunity.

Catherine Bell, NDP, Vancouver Island North
940 Island Highway (Main Office)
Campbell River, B.C., V9W 2C3
Telephone: (250) 287-4902
Jean Crowder, NDP, Nanaimo—Cowichan
126 Ingram Street, Suite 101 (Main Office)
Duncan, B.C., V9L 1P1
Telephone: (250) 746-4896
Gary Lunn, Conservative, Saanich—Gulf Islands
9843 Second Street,
Sidney, B.C., V8L 3C7
Telephone: (250) 656-2320
Dr. Keith Martin, Liberal, Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca
666 Granderson Road
Victoria, B.C., V9B 2R8
Telephone: (250) 474-6505
Denise Savioe, NDP, Victoria
970 Blanshard Street
Victoria, B.C., V8V 2H3
Telephone: (250) 363-3600
Stephen Harper, Conservative, Calgary Southwest
1600 – 90th Avenue SW, Suite A-203
Calgary, AB, T2V 5A8
Telephone: (403) 253-7990
Jack Layton, NDP, Toronto—Danforth
221 Broadview Avenue, Suite 100
Toronto, ONT, M4M 2G3
Telephone: (416) 405-8914
Stéphane Dion, Liberal, Saint-Laurent—Cartierville
750 Marcel-Laurin Blvd, Suite 440
Saint-Laurent , QUE, H4M 2M4
Telephone: (514) 335-6655
Rob Nicholson, Conservative, Niagara Falls
2895 St. Paul Avenue, Unit 11
Niagara Falls, ONT, L2J 2L3
Telephone: (905) 353-9590
Department of Justice Canada
284 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ONT, K1A 0H8

Topics: Articles, CD-16th, Winter 2008 | Comments Off

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