Pubdate: Fri, 20 Feb 2004
Source: Barrie Advance, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2004 Metroland Printing, Publishing and Distributing
Bookmark: (Cocaine)


What We Think

The huge grow-op bust at the old Molson plant last month provided tons
of material for comedians and headline writers. A lot of people had a
big laugh about it. But if you look a little closer, you won't find
anything that's all that funny.

Apart from putting Barrie on the map with the dubious distinction as
the pot capital of Canada, grow-ops of this size are about a lot more
than simply sparking a joint in a basement or park, or recreational
pot smoking. As detailed in a story which ran in Wednesday's edition
of The Advance, such grow-ops are part and parcel of a cycle of crime
that sees pot flow south of the border, and cocaine come back north.
That cocaine, and its derivative, crack cocaine, is ending up on the
streets of Canadian communities, including Barrie, and contributing to
the proliferation of crime associated with the drug.

Police aren't among those laughing at grow-op busts. "The amount of
cocaine hitting the streets in the past year is unprecedented. It's
unreal. It's unheard of. And it has everything to do with grow
operations," Det. Staff Sgt. Rick Barnum, of the Huronia Combined Drug
Enforcement Unit, said in Tracy McLaughin's story. Police will tell
you that when an operation is discovered, organized crime is usually
lurking in the background. So now we have a link between Barrie, pot,
cocaine and organized crime. Still laughing?

What is laughable, police say, are the sentences meted out by the
courts to those convicted of operating grow-ops. One such grower
pleaded guilty to cultivating 30,000 marijuana plants, and received 30
months in jail. The Crown had sought a term of five years in the
penitentiary. Two other involved in the operation got conditional
sentences. Are Canadian communities becoming 'drug havens' because
those caught have little to fear in way of penalties? It's definitely
something to think about.

Grow-ops have little to do with recreational use of pot, and their
dangers should not derail moves to decriminalize possession of small
amounts of marijuana. Indeed, doing so would free up police and court
resources to tackle grow-ops. They are about big-time crime and,
ultimately, addiction and despair for many. And there's nothing funny
about that.
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