Pubdate: Thu, 21 Oct 2010
Source: Calgary Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2010 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Janice Tibbetts, Postmedia News


Six Months Jail For Growing Five Or More Plants

A Conservative bill to jail offenders caught growing five or more
marijuana plants was back before the Senate Wednesday, a year after it
made the rare move of watering down the government's proposals by
raising the bar to 200 plants.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson ignored the Senate amendments when he
resurrected his proposed legislation last spring, and the upper
chamber, which has fewer Liberals than it did a year ago, has less
muscle to balk this time around.

Nicholson warned a Senate committee Wednesday that amending his
proposed legislation again "would severely weaken the bill" so that a
person involved in organized crime could have 150 plants in several
locations and escape jail nonetheless.

"This is directed at traffickers, the people who would sell drugs to
children," Nicholson said.

He said that there is no way that someone who grows 150 plants does
not intend to sell marijuana, although he acknowledged it could be
harder to prove trafficking when a grower is caught with seven plants.

His bill, if passed, would impose mandatory incarceration for a
variety of drug-related crimes for the first time in Canada, adding to
more than two dozen criminal offences that already carry automatic

The makeup of the Senate has changed since it voted 49-43 last
December to amend the bill, making it one of the only times in recent
years that the upper chamber altered a proposed government law.

There are now 52 Conservatives, 49 Liberals and four others. The
Tories still do not have the majority they need to ensure the bill
sails through without amendments, but they have more pull than they
did a year ago.

Nicholson revived his bill after his former proposals died when Prime
Minister Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament last December.

The first bill passed easily in the House of Commons in June 2009
after the Liberals teamed up with the Conservatives, despite grumbling
within Grit ranks that they were being told to support a bad bill so
they wouldn't be accused of being soft on crime.

Nicholson's proposed legislation would impose mandatory six-month
terms for growing five or more plants with the intent to sell them,
and oneyear sentences when marijuana dealing is linked to organized
crime or a weapon is involved.

Sentences would increase to two years for dealing such drugs as
cocaine, heroin or methamphetamine to young people, or pushing drugs
near a school or other places frequented by youths.

While the Liberals in the Commons supported the last bill, Liberal MP
Brian Murphy, who sits on the Commons justice committee, has said that
his party's continued backing is not "a sure bet."

The bill cleared the Commons despite being lambasted by most of the
witnesses who appeared before the justice committee during public hearings.

It's the third time around for Nicholson's drug bill - the first
version died when the 2008 election was called.  
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