Pubdate: Sat, 05 Mar 2005
Source: Toronto Sun (CN ON)
Copyright: 2005, Canoe Limited Partnership.
Author: Michele Mandel, Toronto Sun
Bookmark: (Rochfort Bridge)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Opinion)


Our Lax Grow-Op Laws Need to Be Fixed Now, Michele Mandel Says

FOR SO LONG, it was billed as a victimless crime. But not anymore. Not
ever again.

Not when four junior Mounties lie dead, their young lives cut short
outside a remote Alberta marijuana grow operation, their blood spilled
trying to eradicate what the RCMP commissioner calls a "plague" on

Peter Christopher Schiemann, 25, Anthony Fitzgerald Orion Gordon, 28,
Lionide Nicholas Johnston, 34, and Brock Warren Myrol, 29. In their
honour, surely we have a duty now to finally take this scourge more

For so long now, the proliferation of marijuana grow-ops has been a
story we've read and seen often on the nightly news, so common these
days that we scarcely pay attention anymore. Yet another suburban home
ripped apart and turned into a pot factory. Yet another arrest.

Almost every neighbourhood has had one. Ours was just a few doors down
in a rented home occupied by a boy who liked to come over and play --
but who never invited my children back to his house. Then one day, the
child and his family were gone and we understood why there were no
reciprocal play dates: His parents had been hiding an indoor jungle of

Seemed Harmless

It seemed harmless at the time, but no longer. We've all since learned
of the dangers of these grow-ops going up in flames because of illegal
rewiring, the toxic gases they pump into the neighbourhood and now the
deadly hazards that may await the police who try to bring them down.

These are not harmless mom-and-pop operations, we should know that by
now; most are commercial marijuana branch plants of a
multibillion-dollar business run by gangs, bikers and others not
afraid to use violence to protect their very lucrative pot of gold.

With illegal growers able to rake in $1 million a year in profit, this
is big business, big money. To keep it out of the hands of competitors
and police, these cannabis criminals will wire their grow houses with
electrical booby traps, arm their crop sitters with guns and move some
of their operations into the country where they will be far less

And now we know they will even execute police officers.

James Roszko probably imagined that the Mounties he hated so much
would never discover the secret crop he was farming in rural Alberta.
So much goes undiscovered.

Canada produces between 960 and 2,400 tonnes of marijuana a year, much
of it for export to the United States, where it is traded for cocaine
and guns. Annual seizures of marijuana plants have increased sixfold
since 1993, but police admit they are still not making a dent.

"The risk is low, the profit is high, deterrence is not there, so it
makes it an attractive proposition," Chief Supt. Raf Souccar, the
RCMP's director-general of drugs and organized crime, told reporters
last year.

Canada's laws are so lax and sentences so lenient that few growers
ever go to jail. They face a maximum seven-year term under the old law
and while new legislation would double that for growers of 50 plants
or more, few expect judges to impose anything nearly so stiff. Police
agencies across the country have long called on Ottawa to impose
mandatory minimum sentences of five to seven years to deter these pot

Not Convinced

Yet even now, in the bloody wake of Canada's deadliest police massacre
in more than a century, our politicians are not convinced.

In this case, there are so many questions still unanswered. Roszko,
described by his own father as a "wicked devil," was not likely part
of any organized crime group. Growing weed was an easy, lucrative and
virtually risk-free endeavour for a violent, disturbed man often on
the wrong side of the law.

The most tragic part of this story is that the four fallen Mounties
were killed when Roszko really had nothing to fear from them.

With our lenient judges, there's little doubt that all he would have
faced was a fine. 
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