Pubdate: Tue, 27 Nov 2001
Source: Kitchener-Waterloo Record (CN ON)
Copyright: 2001 Kitchener-Waterloo Record
Author: Jeff Outhit


KITCHENER -- Kitchener council has joined the war on drugs by calling for a 
wide-ranging crackdown on home-grow marijuana operations.

Brushing aside dissent, council last night called on the provincial and 
federal governments to:

Impose a mandatory five-year prison sentence on anybody convicted of using 
a family home to cultivate marijuana.

Maintain the criminalization of marijuana.

Give more of the proceeds seized from home-grow operations to local police 
to help them fight drugs.

Consider giving fire prevention officials more power to inspect homes that 
may pose a risk to their occupants and neighbours.

Make illegal drugs, organized crime and drug abuse a topic of debate at the 
next meeting of Canada's first ministers.

Alarmed councillors urged the crackdown yesterday because of police raids 
over the past year that shut down 60 pot-growing operations across Waterloo 
Region, most of them in Kitchener.

They're particularly concerned about children found in home-grows where 
hazards include accidental fires, chemical cocktails and life-threatening 
booby traps discovered at operations elsewhere in Ontario.

"I think the people who would do this kind of thing are despicable," said 
Coun. Geoff Lorentz.

He recently inspected a home-grow operation that caught fire and damaged a 
house in his ward.

Coun. John Smola is dismayed that someone convicted of growing marijuana in 
a home might get house arrest instead of jail.

"It just doesn't make a lot of sense," Smola said.

But Coun. Jim Ziegler opposed the city's call to arms. "I think it goes too 
far in some directions," he said.

Ziegler, who has worked as a criminal defence lawyer, said he cannot 
support mandatory prison sentences that may be too harsh for some 
first-time offenders and would remove sentencing discretion from judges.

He described some of the marijuana concerns raised by council as 
speculation, while suggesting that decriminalization might actually ease 
home-grow problems.

Coun. Berry Vrbanovic rejected criticism of the call to arms that he drew 
up. "Are some of these statements rather strong? Yes they are," he said. 
"This is an issue I don't want to be seen as soft on."

Council will circulate its proposed marijuana crackdown to other 
governments for support and comment.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Rebel