Pubdate: Fri, 12 Aug 2005
Source: London Free Press (CN ON)
Copyright: 2005 The London Free Press a division of Sun Media Corporation.
Author: Kate Dubinski and Canadian Press
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


Penalties for possessing, making and trafficking crystal meth, a drug 
called the poor man's cocaine, were hiked yesterday in a strategy some 
critics say has proved worthless in the fight against coke and heroin.

Justice Minister Irwin Cotler said the maximum penalty for production and 
distribution has increased to life in prison from 10 years. That brings the 
penalties in line with the same offences associated with heroin and cocaine.

In Perth County, often considered the drug's Ontario production capital, 
officials praised the stiffer penalties on methamphetamine, which is also 
known as crystal meth.

"It certainly is good news that they're treating it more seriously," said 
Perth OPP Const. Glen Childerly. "The hope is that it's a deterrent."

Stratford Mayor Dan Mathieson said: "This is a great response from the 
federal government that has been pushed for for the last couple of months.

"Part of the thing is that you never know the mind of someone who uses 
drugs or meth for that matter, but this will help police get the drugs and 
dealers off the street," he said.

Most of Ontario's 17 meth lab busts over the last two years have been in 
Perth, a rural area where the chemicals needed to make the drug -- 
including anhydrous ammonia, a fertilizer -- are easily found and remote 
locations abound.

Highly potent, the drug is also relatively cheap to make.

"Judges look at the gravity of the offence and the responsibility of the 
offender in determining sentences," Cotler said at a news conference in 
Vancouver, in announcing the stiffer penalties.

"We are making a clear statement today about the gravity of the offence and 
the responsibility of the offender."

Neither Cotler nor the Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh, who joined him for 
the announcement, could think of a case where anyone in Canada had been 
sentenced to 10 years in jail for a drug offence, let alone life in prison.

But Cotler said that's not what it's about, adding the government's 
announcement sends a message to judges, dealers and users.

People working in Vancouver's downtown east side, teeming with addicts 
strung out on crystal meth and small-time pushers, were skeptical about the 
federal approach.

"Well, it sure worked with heroin and cocaine," said Mark Townsend, 
sarcastically. "We don't have any problems with those drugs any more."

Townsend, who works with an organization that houses addicts, said he's 
happy Ottawa is paying attention to the crystal meth problem, but doesn't 
think it has the solution.

"We're just chasing our tail here. Addiction is ultimately about people's 
pain and dealing with that pain," he said.

"In the history of this area, people have used all kinds of things -- Aqua 
Velva after-shave, cooking wine. It's not about the stuff or the crystal 
meth, it's about the pain and suffering and complex issues that you're 
still going to be dealing with."

Incredibly addictive, crystal meth also has side-effects that range from 
violent outbursts to psychosis.

"It's not just a substance for abuse. It is a suicide drug," said Dr. 
Rosana Pellizzari, Perth's medical officer of health.

"It's a toxin, from start to finish . . . This is big business. I think 
this will act as a deterrent for production and distribution," she said of 
the harsher penalties.

While the move may not stop adolescents and teenagers from experimenting 
with the drug, it will hopefully curtail production, Pellizzari said.

The decision to move the drug to a higher classification comes on the heels 
of a federal government proposal to add four substances used to make 
crystal meth to a list of controlled chemicals.

The illegal possession of these so-called precursor chemicals for the 
purposes of producing meth would become an offence that could lead to a 
fine of up to $5,000, up to three years in prison, or both.
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