HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Court Gives Green Light On Infrared
Pubdate: Sat, 30 Oct 2004
Source: Edmonton Sun (CN AB)
Copyright: 2004, Canoe Limited Partnership.
Author: Mindelle Jacobs
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


The police won a major victory yesterday when the Supreme Court of
Canada ruled that cops can use heat-seeking technology to scan the
homes of suspected criminals.

"The devices do not see into or through structures," the court
declared. "External patterns of heat distribution on the external
surfaces of a house is not information in which the (accused) had a
reasonable expectation of privacy."

The decision restores the conviction of Walter Tessling, who was
growing more than 100 pot plants in his Ontario home when the RCMP
caught him in 1999.

The original trial judge sentenced him to six months in jail for
possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking and another 12
months for weapons offences related to guns that were found in the

Yesterday's ruling overturns Tessling's acquittal by the Ontario Court
of Appeal.

The court, by the way, emphasized that police can't use infrared
cameras to go on fishing expeditions. Police can't obtain a search
warrant solely on the basis of an infrared image.

Cops must have other information that gives them reasonable grounds to
believe there's a grow op in place. (In Tessling's case, two
informants tipped off the police.)

Current technology can't distinguish between heat from a sauna, a
pottery kiln, an overheated toaster or high-intensity lights used to
grow pot, the court observed.

But any gains the police have won with this unanimous decision will be
quickly lost once cases move past the investigative and arrest stages.

It's fine and dandy to have the permission of the high court to go
after suspected grow ops with police planes equipped with infrared

But guess what happens when the accused get to court? On the whole,
the sentences for offences related to production and trafficking are
so light, it's laughable.

Tessling's pot plants were worth an estimated $20,000 on the street -
a cash cow minus the BSE. He'll be out on day parole in no time.

Sentences like this send a clear message: the huge profits that can be
made in drug production are well worth the risk of conviction.

Is it any surprise that reported drug crimes are at a 20-year high
(primarily because of pot possession)?

The Supreme Court has given the police a green light to use
heat-sensing technology as an investigative tool in the war on drugs.

"The community wants privacy but it also insists on protection," the
court said. "Safety, security and the suppression of crime are
legitimate countervailing concerns."

But our politicians have made it justifiably clear that we shouldn't
be all that worried about pot. Decriminalization of the possession of
small amounts of marijuana is still on Ottawa's agenda. The judiciary
has picked up on this attitudinal shift.

When the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that heat-seeking devices
amounted to an invasion of privacy, it buttressed its decision on the
grounds that there is "public, judicial and political recognition that
marijuana is at the lower end of the hierarchy of harmful drugs."

Police are going after grow ops when no one gives a hoot about pot

The government doesn't care. It wants to decriminalize the stuff.
Judges don't care. They persist in handing out light sentences. And
the public doesn't care. Vast numbers of Canadians continue to happily
toke up.

Yet we continue with this charade that marijuana must remain illegal
and we allocate vast resources to hunting down grow ops.

If infrared cameras could find meth labs, we'd be a lot further ahead.
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