Pubdate: Mon, 20 Nov 2017
Source: Metro (Toronto, CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Metro Canada
Author: Vicky Mochama
Page: 10


Known for his mishandling of Veterans A airs, corruption scandals
within his constabulary and, shall we say, colourful comments on race
and marijuana, former Toronto and Ontario police chief Julian Fantino
is launching a pot business with a former RCMP senior leader. It has
rightly been met with outcry.

It exposes not only his personal hypocrisies but also those of the pot
legalization process.

A focus on criminalizing personal use rather than public health
concerns (i.e., accessibility to children, mental health issues) has
contributed to the circumstances that make young Black and Indigenous
people known to police. Along with carding, illegality of marijuana
has introduced more young racialized, especially Black, people to the
criminal justice system than is patently fair.

Studies show that pot is used by almost every demographic in
near-equal measure. But Black people, often young and male, are
disproportionately punished for it. A recent analysis by the Toronto
Star found that "Black people with no history of criminal convictions
have been three times more likely to be arrested by Toronto police for
possession of small amounts of marijuana than white people with
similar backgrounds."

That analysis covers 2003-2013, which includes two of the five years
during which Julian Fantino was Toronto police Chief.

In an interview with Reuters, Fantino said of his time as a police
officer, "I just felt, depending on circumstances, I gave people lots
of breaks on marijuana issues, on possession of marijuana. Not
everybody I dealt with was charged - far from it." Clearly, a large
swath of Black people were not given breaks. Considering their
circumstances was evidently not a message from Fantino's office.

The Star's analysis also includes the years during which Bill Blair
was Chief of police; Blair is now the Liberal government's point man
on pot legislation, which is scheduled to pass in July 2018. He has
dabbled in dog-whistle language, calling drug dealers "a gangster
behind some apartment building" or "a criminal in a stairwell."

And yet, former police members who are implicated in a system that has
disproportionately jailed and fined young racialized people for drug
use are the ones who are taking advantage of the coming business
opportunity. The Liberal government has said it will not consider
amnesty for those with marijuana-related criminal records.

No one can be surprised at the rank self-interest of the police. But
it should give the public pause. I'd question anyone's commitment to
public service who opens a pot-based business two years after saying
they completely oppose its legalization.

Jailing the industry's original business leaders and then profiting
from their formal exclusion is hypocrisy.

If people with drug convictions won't be allowed into the marijuana
industry, then perhaps neither should former police officers.
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