HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Judges Urged To Get Tough On Grow Ops
Pubdate: Mon, 29 Nov 2004
Source: Winnipeg Sun (CN MB)
Copyright: 2004 Canoe Limited Partnership
Author: Kathleen Harris, Ottawa Bureau
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


OTTAWA -- Canada's new pot reform laws will toughen penalties to combat 
dangerous marijuana grow ops -- but judges also need a lesson about the 
gravity of the crime, said Public Safety Minister Anne McLellan. Responding 
to a Toronto Sun story about chronically lenient sentences for large-scale 
growing operators, the Deputy Prime Minister said more judicial education 
is required.

"We need to help judges understand how absolutely serious this is -- the 
social costs, the economic costs and quite truthfully, the danger to the 
lives and safety of first responders when they go into these houses," she 
told Sun Media. "This is not a crime that should be taken lightly. This is 
not a victimless crime."

Surprised by statistics from British Columbia showing the odds of going to 
jail are less than 1-in-100, McLellan noted the retabled marijuana 
decriminalization bill doubles the maximum prison term for grow ops. It 
also requires judges to issue written reasons for not giving a jail 
sentence when there are "aggravating" factors such as booby traps, repeat 
offences or established links to organized crime.

"One of the reasons we're amending the Criminal Code is because we believe 
this is a serious crime, and we believe courts must treat it as a serious 
crime," McLellan said.

But Conservative Justice critic Vic Toews slammed the cannabis reform bill 
as "inadequate" and "more lip service than action." The so-called crackdown 
is a typical Liberal ploy to give the false appearance of tackling the 
problem, he charged.

"They know full well the courts don't even impose the present maximum 
sentences," he said. "If they're really serious about addressing the issue, 
they need to impose mandatory minimum prison terms."

Failing to have tough mandatory minimum sentences on the books only 
encourages a revolving door of criminal grow operators, who set up shop 
again after just a few months behind bars.
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