Pubdate: Tue, 17 Feb 2009
Source: Beacon Herald, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2009 Osprey Media Group Inc.


Just over three years ago the Perth County Meth Task Force was struck 
to deal with what was clearly a crisis in this part of the country. 
In one year, police broke up 15 meth labs in Perth County and in many 
of those cases our first responders -- firefighters, paramedics and 
police -- were being put in danger as they arrived at fires and 
explosions at meth labs.

The presence of meth labs impacted neighbourhoods and landlords and 
put an incredible amount of stress on our police forces and courts as 
arrests and charges related to meth production became commonplace.

So in 2005, different levels of government worked together to form 
the Perth County Meth Task Force. In announcing the provincial 
funding, our MPP John Wilkinson said "we're going to figure out how 
to run that drug out of this county."

Thirty major stakeholders, including police, locally and provincially 
elected officials, the health care sector, schools and mental health 
agencies all joined together to make up the Task Force. Provincial 
funding totalling $1 million paid for the pilot project and within 
years, the task force began to show results.

Last October, during a conference here, the Perth County Meth Task 
Force was held up as a shining example of how different elements of 
society can work together to reach a solution. Meth, while still 
present in our community, is not anywhere near the widespread 
epidemic it was before the task force was formed.

A lot of hard work went in to beating back the meth problem and it 
really was a team effort.

Sadly, in a few hours, a lot of that work can be undone. While many 
elements of society gave their heart and soul to addressing the 
crisis, someone should have sent a memo to the courts and informed 
them that they too play a role in comprehensive drug strategy.

Last week, a confessed drug dealer was in court after she was caught 
selling cocaine and meth to undercover police officers. She pleaded 
guilty to seven counts of drug trafficking and two counts of 
conspiracy to commit an indictable offence.

Undercover officers purchased 11.8 grams of cocaine and 23.3 grams of 
meth from the woman and the Crown wanted the woman sent to prison for 
as much as three years and local drug counselling centre Choices for 
Change, which has been on the frontlines of the war on meth around 
here submitted a report to the court which said meth has impacted the 
community "like nothing we have seen before." Unmoved, the judge gave 
the women two years, less a day, of house arrest.

Reason being, since the arrest she had turned her life around and 
showed remorse and the judge also cited the fact she had no previous 
convictions. That clean record somehow carried more weight than the 
guilty plea of seven counts of drug trafficking.

Judges and courts like to make decisions by precedent so there is one 
for all those criminals out there to hold up. If arrested, regardless 
of how heinous and insidious the crime is, just hurry up and turn 
your life around by the time you get sentenced.

The decriminalization of marijuana in Canada was a matter of great 
debate about five years ago. The theory behind those changes to the 
criminal code was that police and judges should worry less about 
users and more about dealers.

Again, so much for that idea.

Then in 2007, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced a new national 
anti-drug strategy. The proposed bill, which did not become law, 
would have also targeted dealers with stiff sentences for dealers and 
producers. For example, a large scale grower of marijuana (500 
plants) would face a minimum of two years in prison and possibly as many as 14.

Meanwhile, in Stratford, you get house arrest for seven counts of 
selling cocaine and meth.
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