Pubdate: Tue, 08 Mar 2005
Source: Abbotsford Times (CN BC)
Copyright: 2005 The Abbotsford Times
Author: Greg Davis
Bookmark: (Rochfort Bridge)


B.C. Solicitor General Rich Coleman wants tougher penalties for people 
running marijuana grow-ops, in the aftermath of the horrific murders of 
four RCMP officers at a grow-op in Alberta.

Predictably, Coleman is using the strong public emotion of the moment to 
further his dubious war on pot.

Let's examine some of the facts:

Coleman says 41 per cent of pot growers have serious criminal records, and 
that the notion of grow-ops as being "mom and pop" operations is a complete 
myth. However, these statistics he likes to quote come from police records 
of actual busts, and do not reflect the entire industry.

Due to a shortage of resources, police generally concentrate on raiding the 
bigger, more commercial grow-ops; I have no doubt that these operations are 
indeed run by organized crime. However, there are thousands of smaller 
operations that slip under the police's radar because they are too 
insignificant. Many of these operations are run by individuals whose only 
crime is growing marijuana.

I personally know of seven different individuals or couples growing pot. Of 
these, not one has a criminal record, or weapons, or associations with 
organized crime. These are the growers that people like myself would prefer 
to deal with.

Yes, I am a pot smoker. I am also a full-time professional technician, a 
taxpayer, a voter and a compassionate person who makes a valuable 
contribution to our society. My only crime is smoking marijuana, and there 
are many, many more people like me.

The solicitor general would dearly love to have the public believe that the 
entire industry is being run by either the Triads or the Hells Angels. 
Criminal organizations are heavily involved in the marijuana trade - when 
you criminalize something, the people willing to trade in it will likely be 
criminals - but to characterize the entire industry that way is simply not 

Coleman suggests that grow-ops are bristling with weapons and booby traps, 
but Insp. Dave Nelmes of the Vancouver police drug unit says that just 
isn't the case. Nelmes says that at the majority of grow-op raids, the 
owners simply open the door when police identify themselves.

The loss of the four officers at the hands of one deranged individual is a 
great tragedy for the country. My own father and two of my uncles are 
former RCMP officers, and my heart goes out to the families of the fallen 
men. However, this crime had more to do with a heavily armed and disturbed 
individual than it did with the marijuana industry.

At best, it only reinforces why we must completely decriminalize marijuana 
now. Pot is easy to grow. If the average smoker could grow some plants at 
home, with no risk of prosecution, then why would anyone pay the Hells 
Angels for their over-priced product? Decriminalization would put organized 
crime out of the pot business overnight.

Pot smokers are not going to go away, and Coleman's war on drugs will fail 
as miserably as its American counterpart. We need a new approach that will 
keep the harm to society to a minimum, and that approach will be found in 
the light of logic and reason, not through capitalizing on the public's grief.

Greg Davis,

- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom