Pubdate: Fri, 05 Oct 2007
Source: Chronicle Herald (CN NS)
Copyright: 2007 The Halifax Herald Limited
Author: Steve Lambert, Canadian Press
Bookmark: (Mandatory Minimum Sentencing)
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Canada)
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)
Bookmark: (Treatment)


PM Also Promises Two-Thirds of $64m Program Will Go Toward 
Prevention, Treatment for Users

WINNIPEG - Prime Minister Stephen Harper is promising to put more 
drug dealers behind bars and help users kick the habit as part of a 
$64-million anti-drug strategy.

The government will introduce legislation this fall to make prison 
time mandatory for serious drug offences, the prime minister said 
Thursday. But he refused to be specific other than to say the 
proposed law would focus on dealers.

"Currently there are no minimum prison sentences for producing and 
trafficking dangerous drugs like methamphetamine and cocaine," Harper 
told workers at a Salvation Army centre in downtown Winnipeg. "These 
are serious crimes. Those who commit them should do serious time."

But he also said the government wants to make "a distinction between 
those who would simply be a user or an addict, and those who actually 
deal and produce drugs in order to profit from other people's addiction."

The Conservative plan includes a promise to help border guards find 
drugs and the products used to manufacture crystal meth and other 
substances. There will also be more resources for police to close 
down marijuana grow operations.

But the prime minister took pains to stress a compassionate side to 
the program as well. Fully two-thirds of the money will go to 
prevention and treatment for addicts and to promotional campaigns 
encouraging young people to stay away from drugs.

"If drugs do get hold of you, there will be help to get you off them."

While the federal New Democrats have called the plan a heavy-handed, 
American-style war on drugs, police and addictions workers were quick 
to applaud it.

"I like the idea of having two tracks with the emphasis on prevention 
and treatment," said John Borody, head of the Addictions Foundation 
of Manitoba.

"You can stretch ($64 million) quite a ways if provinces are sharing 
those programs."

"It's a strong message," added Tony Cannavino, head of the Canadian 
Professional Police Association, which represents rank-and-file 
officers across the country.

"The ones that are dealers and are killing our youth, they're going 
to do serious time."

Canada's best-known marijuana activist warned that the looming 
crackdown might be much tougher than it sounds.

"All marijuana smokers are dealers in a way, because we pass joints 
and it's considered trafficking," Marc Emery said from Vancouver.

"I myself have had a trafficking conviction for passing a joint."

Emery, who heads the B.C. Marijuana Party and is wanted in the United 
States for selling marijuana seeds, said Ottawa would do better to 
abandon its war on soft drugs.

"That battle is all ideological. There is no reason to justify 
further punishing marijuana users in the criminal justice system 
because it fills up the jails."

But Harper said there can't be a soft side to the war on drugs. In 
fact, he suggested a certain degree of drug use has already become 
too acceptable in society.

"What we are up against in trying to resolve this problem, what the 
police are up against, those who deal in treatment and prevention are 
up against, is a culture that since the 1960s has at the minimum not 
encouraged drug use and often romanticized it or made it cool, made 
it acceptable," he said.

"As a father, I don't say these things blamelessly. My son is 
listening to my Beatles records and asking me what all these lyrics 
mean. It's just there. It's out there. I love these records. I'm not 
putting them away.

"But that said, the reality is there has been a culture that has not 
fought drug use. And that's what we're up against."

Harper said there are no easy solutions, but change is possible, as 
already witnessed in society's view of smoking.

"We have seen, in the case of tobacco, a shift in the culture in a 
way that has rendered tobacco use less and less socially or 
culturally acceptable. I think we need to do it much more quickly and 
much more critically in the area of narcotics." 
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