Pubdate: Fri, 18 Feb 2011
Source: Northumberland News (CN ON)
Copyright: 2011 by Metroland Printing, Publishing & Distributing, Ltd.
Author: John Campbell
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Asset Forfeiture)


TRENT HILLS - Northumberland-Quinte West MP Rick Norlock said he's 
confident a majority of Canadians support his government's efforts to 
get tough on drug traffickers by making minimum sentences mandatory.

Bill S-10 targets traffickers who sell drugs to youth, are linked to 
organized crime, employ weapons or violence, and put others at risk.

"I think the preponderance of people would say that you just can't 
give somebody a slap on the wrist for that, and that there should be 
a mandatory minimum sentence," Mr. Norlock said.

Bill S-10 amends the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to include a 
minimum sentence of one year if the drug-related offence is committed 
for a criminal organization, or involves violence or its threatened use.

The minimum becomes two years if the offence takes place in or near a 
school, or any public place frequented by young people under the age of 18.

If there are health and safety factors involved, such as using 
property belonging to a third party, or producing drugs in a manner 
that constitutes a potential public safety hazard, the minimum prison 
term is three years.

Mr. Norlock said members of organized crime and biker gangs "keep 
playing the system" so they receive three-to six-month sentences.

"We're trying to close the door on that," he said.

The Liberals were in favour of the bill before it went to the Senate 
for review but they're now saying they won't support its passage when 
it comes up for a vote in the House in the next month or so.

They're "ramping up for an election," Mr. Norlock said. "If this is 
one of the things they want to fight an election on, I think they've 
chosen the wrong thing because it's going to be a lose-lose for them."

The bill's most controversial amendment is to set a minimum sentence 
of six months for growing more than five marijuana plants for the 
purpose of trafficking.

"These mandatory minimums are not for the person who has a couple of 
joints on them," Mr. Norlock said.

People with more than five marijuana plants aren't growing them for 
just their own use, he said, "because they would have to have a 
marijuana cigarette in their mouth 24 hours a day, 365 days of the 
year to consume even a portion of that."

The bill is intended to send a message to organized crime, "to people 
who would sell drugs to our children," Mr. Norlock said. "This is a 
war on people who want to endanger the lives of our children, our 
community, and make our streets not safe."

The bill does provide for special drug courts to help "people who 
want to kick the drug habit" by offering a treatment program that 
puts their case on hold. Those who complete the program and show 
signs they are "on the mend" will receive a suspended sentence and/or 
probation, Mr. Norlock said.

"This is a balanced approach to the problem of drug use in our 
society," Mr. Norlock said, noting it's "not as severe" a remedy as 
the approach taken in the United States or even Great Britain.

A local group, PACE (People Advocating Cannibis Education), led by Al 
Graham of Campbellford, supports the decriminalization and eventual 
legalization of marijuana, but Mr. Norlock is firmly opposed to the idea.

Canada already has two legal drugs - alcohol and tobacco - that have 
caused "untold misery" and cost the country "multibillions of 
dollars" in health care and lost productivity, he said, so why would 
the country want to make a third drug widely available that would 
only add to those costs.

Mr. Norlock, who worked as a police officer for more than 30 years, 
said marijuana impairs a person's ability to drive but "there is no 
measuring stick" to determine how much of the drug's active 
ingredient, THC, is present in a driver's blood. The absence of a 
device similar to a breathalyzer would "seriously complicate the 
police's ability to enforce" laws to deter driving and drug use, he 
said. "I believe the vast majority of people who live in my riding 
.. and I believe most Canadians don't want to legalize marijuana," 
Mr. Norlock said. "Governments have a responsibility for the safety 
and health of their citizens, and I believe that marijuana is not 
conducive to a healthy, happy, properly functioning society."

Mr. Norlock noted that even though alcohol and tobacco are legal, 
there still exists a black market for both products, operated by 
organized crime, and the same thing would happen if marijuana were to 
become a legal product.

Inspector Doug Borton, detachment commander of the Northumberland 
OPP, agreed, saying making marijuana legal in Canada would not put a 
stop to illegal grow-ops and their attendant dangers.

"The vast majority of marijuana grown in Ontario is exported to the 
United States," he said. It brings drugs, cash and guns in return 
that support ongoing criminal activities.

"It would still be a drug problem," he said, and grow-ops, with their 
booby traps and inherent hazards when carried out indoors, would 
continue to pose a threat to residents, communities and police officers.

Insp. Borton said the OPP's drug enforcement officers "have been 
doing a good job" in curtailing the availability of drugs in Northumberland.

"It's not something we're hugely concerned with because we do keep a 
tight rein on it," he said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom