Pubdate: Sat, 12 Aug 2006
Source: Now, The (Surrey, CN BC)
Copyright: 2006 The Now Newspaper
Author: Tom Zytaruk
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


Jaws dropped at a Tory meeting in Fleetwood Thursday night when RCMP 
Chief Supt. Bud Mercer told a crowd that marijuana grow operators in 
B.C. are being convicted as many as seven times or more before seeing 
the inside of a jail cell.

Despite the same-day news of a major terrorist plot being thwarted in 
the U.K., the hot topic at the Surrey meeting, featuring federal 
public safety and emergency preparedness minister Stockwell Day, was 
Surrey's proliferation of marijuana growing operations.

Mercer referred to a recent report issued by the University of the 
Fraser Valley's criminology department and the International Centre 
for Urban Research Studies. The study indicates only 17 per cent of 
offenders busted with 100 plants or less are sentenced to prison 
after seven prior convictions, and then for only 4.8 months on 
average. Of those busted with more than 100 plants, only 29 per cent 
of offenders with seven convictions under their belt are sentenced to 
prison, with the average sentence being 5.8 months.

The report also indicated that 49 per cent of B.C.'s convicted 
marijuana grow operators would get five or more years in jail if 
convicted in Washington State, which hardly has any grow-ops compared 
to B.C. In B.C., only seven per cent of the prison sentences ordered 
in connection with grow-ops are three months or more.

"We could put 200 more officers just doing grow-ops," Mercer said. 
"If all the other things around it didn't change, it would just be a 
cycle, it would just repeat itself."

Supt. Craig Callins, the officer in charge of Surrey RCMP's 
plainclothes police, which includes the drug section, said 35 
officers are on the city's drug squad and of those, seven are on the 
marijuana grow-op team. "Is seven enough to take on 3,000 grow ops in 
Surrey? No," Callins said.

Day told the crowd his government is not moving in the direction of 
decriminalization and is working to get much tougher on grow 
operators. "The federal Liberals have put in place over the years a 
system that virtually guarantees that a lot of serious crime will not 
be dealt with seriously," he told the Now. "We're beginning to change 
that system. Serious crime deserves serious time."

On another topic, Fleetwood-Port Kells MP Nina Grewal said the 
federal government is planning to raise the age of sexual consent 
from 14 to 16. "It really broke my heart to think girls as young as 
14 could be exploited by predatory adults," she said.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman