Pubdate: Sat, 08 Dec 2007
Source: Charlatan, The (CN ON Edu)
Copyright: 2007 Charlatan Publications Inc.
Author: Alyssa McMurtry


Legislation proposed by the Conservative government Nov. 21, aimed at
cracking down on drug crime is useless and even dangerous, according
to Jody Emery.

Emery is co-editor of Cannabis Culture magazine, and is one of
Canada's leading drug activists.

"This will be extremely expensive, ineffective and put a lot of people
in jail that shouldn't or wouldn't be there otherwise," said Emery.

The proposed legislation is aimed at fighting drug crime by putting
mandatory sentences on crimes such as grow operations and violent drug
dealing for a range of drugs, including marijuana.

"Drug producers and dealers threaten the safety of our communities,
they must face tougher penalties," said justice minister Rob Nicholson
after introducing the bill, as reported by CanWest News Service.

"Because the big-time drug dealers don't worry about prison, it will
be small-time grow-ops or family operations that will be put out of
business by this," said Emery. "It should be legalized and government
controlled if they want to stop organized crime."

"There is some indication that minimum sentences are not an effective
sentencing tool: that is, they constrain judicial discretion without
offering any increased crime prevention benefits," according to a
report for the Justice Department released in 2001.

"I don't like mandatory minimums at all because judges make the
decisions and I have confidence in judges for the most part," said
Maeve McMahon, professor of law and criminology at Carleton University.

"It's very easy to make mandatory minimums but you can work yourself
into an awkward situation where the judges can't use their

The 2007 UN Drug Report estimated that 16.8 per cent of Canadians aged
15-64 smoked marijuana or used another cannabis product in 2006, four
times the world average.

"Legislation like this usually affects people at the lowest level,
meaning the users," said McMahon.

"If you look at somewhere like Holland where drug use is lower and
certain drugs are legal you can see that this kind of system doesn't
necessarily work in preventing drug use," he said. "In the U.S., the
prison population is an absolute nightmare."

Canada's rate of imprisonment is about 120 people for every 100,000.
It the States is more than 700 people per 100,000.

"Until 1975 their's was roughly equivalent to Canada's and this change
is largely because of the war on drugs," said McMahon.

A specific target of the legislation is to curb youth drug use by
imposing minimum sentences on people dealing to youth or around schools.

"This legislation would lead Canada into a U.S. style drug war, which
is making things worse, costing a lot of money and cramming the
prisons. There is no reason Canada should copy that," Emery said.
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