HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Ferry's Formula For Weeding Out Grow Ops
Pubdate: Tue, 18 Apr 2000
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2000 The Province
Contact:  200 Granville Street, Ste. #1, Vancouver, BC V6C 3N3 Canada
Fax: (604) 605-2323
Author: Jon Ferry, The Province


I must say I find it rather ironic that West Vancouver has been
hitting the headlines lately as a haven for marijuana grow operations.

I mean, here is a neighborhood which for years has turned up its nose
at the rest of the North Shore, if not the world and now it finds
itself, well, going to pot.

Yes, so far this year the cops have raided 15 grow ops in this
restless enclave whose garish hillside mansions give a whole new
meaning to the phrase "social climbing."

And you can imagine how many more they'll find, if the plunging stock
portfolios of local wheeler-dealers fail to keep pace with their Range
Rover payments.

No seriously, folks, let's pause for a moment and take a look at the
real culprits here -- namely our ludicrously antiquated drug laws.

They clearly encourage the very criminal activity they're supposed to
be preventing.

"With the drug industry comes violence and death," snorts West
Vancouver Chief Constable Grant Churchill.

No argument there. But, why does this violence occur?

It's a direct result of drug prohibition and the "drug war" conducted
with Hollywood hype by whole armies of North American law enforcement

Between them, they ensure the supply of narcotics remains tight and
the demand is kept high. The result?

Sky-high prices for the drugs.

Huge profits for the biker gangs.

Banner headlines for the press.

Photo ops for the politicians.

Kudos for the cops.

Sick kicks for the kids.

And, last but not least, misery for the hundreds of thousands of drug
users who continue to feed their habit in jail, die in downtown
alleyways or otherwise get caught in the cross-fire.

Current drug prohibition in the U.S., you see, works about as well as
alcohol prohibition in the 1920s and early '30s. Which is not at all.
It breeds addiction and fosters criminal empires.

And it certainly doesn't work here in 21st-century B.C., judging by
the sad state of Vancouver's downtown east side and assorted other
provincial drug hells.

Vancouver constable Gil Puder, you may remember, was one front-line
cop who saw first-hand the futility of our U.S.-style drug war.

In 1984, Puder killed an armed addict. Two years later, a junkie
killed one of his best friends. "I don't dislike the drug problem,"
Puder said, shortly before dying of cancer late last year. "I hate

Puder saw the drug problem for what it was -- a HEALTH problem. He
called for the legalization of marijuana and the decriminalization of
heroin and opiates for medicinal purposes.

And he took aim at former B.C. attorney-general Allan Williams, a West
Vancouver councillor who last summer went on a nose-in-the-clouds rant
about mandatory life terms for drug traffickers.

"Describing marijuana growers as merchants of misery is laughable,"
Puder replied. "The huge profits accruing to pot producers result from
catering to  well-heeled recreational users, many of whom undoubtedly
reside in Mr.  Williams's wealthy West Vancouver enclave."

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm no pot head. Indeed, I agree with Puder
that there is no greater risk to the health and safety of our
communities than drug use.

But, I also agree it's time for a radically new approach.

As Puder notes, drug decriminalization would not result in heroin
being sold at corner stores.

Various drugs would require different forms of regulation, which could
be phased in slowly once appropriate legislation and drug-management
programs were put in place.

In B.C., such low-risk substances as marijuana could be regulated
under a revised provincial liquor act. We could have, as SFU
criminology prof Rob Gordon told the Sunday Province, a legitimate
marijuana-growing industry, including the growing of hemp for paper:
"We could be employing more people in it and taxing the

More importantly, we could use simple market economics to drive the
hydro-stealing, home-wrecking grow ops out of business.

As Puder himself said: "I would rather see pot revenues building
schools than fortifying biker clubhouses."

It makes sense to me.

And it should make sense to the fine, upstanding folk in West Van --
not to mention those in all the other drug-blighted communities in

(Jon Ferry writes here Tuesdays. He can be reached at  ---
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