Pubdate: Fri, 04 May 2007
Source: Community Press, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2007 Community Press
Author: Mark Hoult
Bookmark: (Youth)


Havelock-Belmont-Methuen -- Peterborough Cty. OPP youth officer
Constable Eric Dawson has a message for young people who are tempted
to experience the high of smoking marijuana.

"Don't do dope, not because of the cops, but because it's extremely
unhealthy," he said.

Constable Dawson brought this message, along with a host of facts
about marijuana, cocaine and other illicit drugs, to a recent parent
information session at Havelock-Belmont Public School. He told parents
it's vital to dispel the idea that marijuana is harmless because it's
simply a plant. Marijuana is now a cash crop, and there isn't anything
natural about the way the plants are grown today, said Constable
Dawson, who has worked as an undercover narcotics officer. "Because
it's a cash crop it grows fast and it has a really high THC level," he
said, referring to the chemical in the marijuana plant that produces
the "high" when absorbed by the body.

Marijuana also has five times the cancer causing agents than are found
in cigarettes, said Constable Dawson, who teachers the DARE (Drug
Awareness Resistance Education) program to students in grades six and
nine. "So it's just plain unhealthy. That's the push we're using with
the kids."

It's also dangerous to be anywhere near a marijuana growing operation,
he said. "It's not a place you want to hang around. We've found actual
booby traps, including explosive traps. I saw one once in a grow north
of Norwood."

And hashish oil, which is gathered from marijuana plants, is produced
in countries such as Afghanistan. In fact Afghanistan is "a huge
producer," and money from the sale of hashish go to the Taliban and
the funding of global terrorism, Constable Dawson said.

Police deal with people possessing and trafficking drugs using the
provisions of the Controlled Drug and Substances Act, which sets out
lists and categories of drugs, Constable Dawson said, noting that
penalties range from a low fine for simple possession to jail
sentences for trafficking.

In high schools, police are often dealing with cases of simple
possession of small amounts of marijuana, usually under 15 grams,
Constable Dawson said. "We'll fine a kid in high school $100 for
simple possession, but when you start to deal, then you get into jail

High school kids often possess very small quantities of marijuana,
Constable Dawson said, holding up a tiny plastic "baggie," about the
size of the bags used for spare buttons. The baggies hold about a gram
of marijuana, enough to roll a joint, he said.

Unfortunately, busting a kid for possessing a single joint still
involves about four hours of office work for a police officer,
Constable Dawson said, explaining the reasoning behind a proposal by
the former federal Liberal government to decriminalize marijuana. The
proposal for decriminalization could be back on the table if there is
a change in government, he said. And if the legislation is ever passed
it would change the way police deal with people possessing small
amounts of marijuana. "Decriminalization doesn't mean it's going to be
legal, it only means it will be dealt with in a different way,"
Constable Dawson told parents. "The proposal is to deal with it like a
traffic offense. Instead of it being a criminal offense, we would just
write a ticket for possession of anything up to 30 grams."

Ticket fines would vary according to the amount of marijuana, with
higher fines if the person is in or near a school or driving. And
after a fourth offense an officer would have the discretion to take
the offender to court, Constable Dawson said. An adult caught growing
between one and three plants would be fined $500. But growing four to
26 plants would result in a jail sentence of up to five years.

Cocaine and crack are still widely used drugs that result in serious
addiction problems, Constable Dawson said. But more widely used by
young people is ecstasy, a drug first made in Germany in 1912 to treat
people with mental illness. Ecstasy is known as "the party drug,"
because it causes people to completely lower their barriers, Constable
Dawson said. Unfortunately, many people who purchase ecstasy are not
taking a pure form of the drug, he said. "You could be taking
anything, whatever people can put together in a pill."

Constable Dawson said young people distrust the police and their
parents and teachers, then go out on the street and trust the word of
a drug dealer. "So I ask the kids: 'why do you never question a drug
dealer?' The reality is it's all about money. I tell the kids, 'they
are not trying to be nice to you, they are not your friend. They just
want what's in your pocket.'"
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