Pubdate: Tue, 08 Mar 2005
Source: Abbotsford News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2005 Hacker Press Ltd.
Author: Greg Davis


Editor, The News:

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 that 41 per cent of pot growers have serious criminal
records, and that the notion of grow-ops being "mom and pop"
operations is a complete myth.

However, these statistics that Coleman 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 these operations are indeed run by organized

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

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

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 accurate.

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.

"We have encountered a few knives inside. I can think of only one or
two reports of firearms, and those were hidden away, and we found
those in searches," he says in a recent media story.

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

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

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