HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html One Weird Scene, Man
Pubdate: Thu, 11 Mar 2004
Source: NOW Magazine (Canada)
Copyright: 2004 NOW Communications Inc.
Author: Matthew Mernagh
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


Stuck In The Maw Of The Anti-drug Monster, I Wonder If Cops Will Ever Make 
Peace With Potheads

For some reason, my invite to attend the Ontario Association of Chiefs of 
Police (OACP) two-day grass summit has never arrived. So I just show up in 
the morning on the first day at an Ontario government building at Bay and 
Wellesley and, wouldn't you know it, only "respectable" community 
stakeholders like bankers, insurance reps, realtors, CSIS agents and reps 
from the U.S. consulate have been invited to help cops revive the war on 
drugs. The police alone can't battle the cancer of marijuana grow ops, so 
they've created a fear-mongering propaganda event called Green Tide. OACP 
seems to anticipate some sort of clash. The police presence in the halls 
and doorways is heavy.

Organizers claim that they're looking for alternative ideas on how to 
combat the "green tidal wave" of indoor marijuana grow ops, but the opening 
remarks by MPP Monte Kwinter (Minister of Community Safety and Correctional 
Services), OACP president Ean Algar and Chuck Mercier of the Durham 
regional police are full of crazy distortions.

One of the "facts" Algar offers is that 20 per cent of all grow ops busted 
by the fuzz are near schools, which prompts Mercier to conclude, "They 
(grow ops) need to be near schools so that their (crop-sitter) children can 

The crowd, made up mostly of middle-aged white boys, is further fired up by 
the screening of what I'll call Reefer Madness 2: Menace Of The Grow Op. 
Over an ominous soundtrack, images of bountiful crops, including the Molson 
Brewery operation, are flashed on the screen along with some bizarre 
ramblings about imminent gang warfare, drive-by shootings that will kill 
children, houses exploding and fires from grow ops burning down whole 
blocks of homes. Doomsday is coming, and the only way to stop it is to give 
the police more power to spy on citizens.

Marc Emery, the Crown Prince of Pot and a seed salesman who's somehow 
managed to get into this event as "media" (he runs Cannabis Culture 
magazine), looked away from the spectacle to say to me, "This is absolutely 
wild!" Indeed, this flick is beyond surreal. It borders on crazy. Thank god 
I hadn't succumbed to my original urge to get gunned on grass beforehand. 
The paranoia might have sent me reeling.

The vile untruths continue in the media scrum with Kwinter outside. When 
the questions get tough, Kwinter holds to the tried-and-true: blame the media.

Pointing to me, he says, "The biggest problem we have, and I say this 
without fear of contradiction, is you, the media."

Emery snaps back, "Prohibition only encourages all these problems. We need 
a regulated environment."

Kwinter: "Fine."

Me: "So you agree that prohibition is the problem?"

Kwinter: "We're not discussing the problem for Canadians. We're discussing 
that this marijuana is being used as a currency for organized crime to ship 
to the United States and bring back hard drugs and guns."

Media member: "Sir, we know gang violence is about territory, drug money. 
Can you not see the connection (between drug violence and prohibition)?"

Kwinter: "There are far greater hard drugs, like cocaine. The point that 
we're making, and I keep telling people - and you people have your own 
agenda - is that these grow houses are used for export marijuana. We are 
becoming one of the largest exporters of marijuana."

Me: "Why has the marijuana community been shut out of this conference?"

Kwinter: "Listen. We are bringing people who can help us and give us ideas 
on how we can tackle the problem. The United States has far stricter laws 
and is very concerned about the fact that Canada is a major supplier of 
marijuana to its market. "

Media: "But we're upset about their guns."

Kwinter: "That's another issue."

Me: "Sir, you just earlier connected it all."

Kwinter: "It's a whole contingent of problems."

Me: "Wouldn't taxing marijuana solve some of those problems?"

The minister skipped this question and began to ramble on about how he is - 
and this is a shocker - in favour of decriminalization. So is OACP.

It's clear the anti-drug warriors are too entrenched in their paranoid 
delusions to come up with anything more than stiffer penalties and greater 
invasion of civil liberties.

After two days of deliberations, the private sector agrees to gladly hunt 
out the evil grow ops - watch out for the guy reading your elmeter - but 
not until privacy laws are changed so everyone can share information.

The conference also issues an edict to real estate agents to beware the 
buyer who's more interested in the basement than the bedroom, pays the 
deposit in cash or shows up for the open house riding a hog. Realtors 
should immediately report any suspicious clients to law enforcement.

The anti-drug beasts have filled their full-colour, coil-bound report, 
Indoor Marihuana Cultivation And Its Impact On Ontario, with incredible 
speculations and stats.

"Although there have been no reported explosions or electrocutions directly 
tied to grow ops in Ontario," the report says, "such incidents have been 
reported in other provinces." They never do say how they came up with the 
stat that 10,000 children might have lived in grow ops between 2000 and 2003.

Down the street, there are no grand conspiracy theories at Green Truth, the 
shadow conference held at the Sutton Place Hotel.

Emery reports back to the counter-meet on the events that have unfolded at 
Green Tide, clearly fuelled by the insanity we've witnessed there.

The tirade Emery launches into fires up the laid-back room. "Who would 
normally and willingly consort with criminals to get marijuana? Who would 
buy their tomatoes or groceries from a biker or a mobster? No one ! We 
don't want to either!"

Niagara Centre NDP MPP Peter Kormos crashes both events but only takes the 
floor at Green Truth. The NDP house leader's message draws a standing ovation.

"I'd like to applaud the courage of the medical marijuana users who at 
great risk to themselves have spoken out. You people have renewed the 
debate and generated discussion. I commend you for your articulate 
arguments against prohibition. Jack Layton and Howard Hampton will be true 
to their promise that they will put an end to prohibition. Canadians from 
all walks of life and generations are enjoying trainloads of marijuana. The 
solution is to legalize it, regulate it, tax it and control it."

Just as Reefer Madness 2: Menace Of The Grow Op sent me to the land of the 
weird and crazy, the presentation at Green Truth by Law Enforcement Against 
Prohibition founding secretary John Gayder is equally unbelievable, but for 
all the right reasons. Gayder, an officer for Niagara region park police, 
stresses that his views are most definitely not his employer's but 
represent the opinion of a small but growing group of boys in blue who have 
seen way too many casualties on both sides of the war.

During the break, a small group of potheads trickle toward Gayder. Everyone 
commends him for speaking out when it would be easier to simply follow 
orders. When you consider that almost everyone in the room has been a 
victim of a police raid, his presentation is all the more overwhelming.

Officer Gayder tells us we should be spending more time pushing the fact 
that the "sky didn't fall in when cannabis was a non-criminal substance in 
the summer. We were not plagued by hordes of raving cannabis users high on 
the devil's weed."

Imagine a police officer saying, as Gayder does, "Why am I against the war 
on drugs? Well, it puts me in an adversarial position toward a large 
segment of society that I'm supposed to be protecting, and I know a lot of 
you in the room don't look at me that way. And that's not right. The vast 
majority of users of all types of drugs are non-violent people. I'm also 
against the war on drugs because it adds an unnecessary risk to the workplace.

"I'd like to see the end to the war on drugs so that the law enforcement 
profession can be safer and redeem its honour in the eyes of the public," 
he says.

We can only hope. But my hours in the maw of the anti-drug monster leave me 
with the feeling that the pro-pot community will never be given the 
opportunity to negotiate peace.
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