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Senate smarter on crime

By admin | December 15, 2009

Times Colonist December 15, 2009

Nothing frightens politicians these days like the risk of being seen as — shudder — soft on crime. That’s the only explanation for Liberal MPs’ support earlier this year for a Conservative bill that would impose a mandatory minimum sentence of six months for someone caught growing as few as five marijuana plants.

Fortunately, senators don’t face the same pressures. The Senate passed an amended version of the crime bill yesterday. It left the mandatory minimum provisions in place, but raised the threshold to 200 plants. That allows judges to make the decision about jail, based on the circumstances. There is no point — and considerable expense and risk — in sending a 19-year-old to prison for half-a-dozen scraggly pot plants.

The Senate amendments also require a cost-benefit review of all minimum sentence provisions after five years. Mandatory minimum sentences in other jurisdictions have produced great leaps in prison populations and no reduction in crime. The government has produced no studies to justify their expansion here.

The senators’ amendments are welcome.
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