Pubdate: Fri, 05 Oct 2007
Source: Standard, The (St. Catharines, CN ON)
Copyright: 2007 The Standard
Author: Steve Lambert
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine - Canada)
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Canada)
Bookmark: (Cocaine)

PM pledges $64M to fight drug dealers, help users

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

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.

"There is no reason to justify further punishing marijuana users in
the criminal justice system because it fills up the jails."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake