Pubdate: Wed, 16 Mar 2005
Source: Revelstoke Times Review (CN BC)
Copyright: 2005 Bowes Publishers
Author: Russell Barth


In the wake of the RCMP massacre, there have been calls for stiffer 
penalties and mandatory minimum sentences for cannabis growers.

For those of you still unclear on exactly how regulated cannabis production 
and sales would work, and how it would eliminate the dangers, let me 
explain. First, we let people grow at home but only on condition that they 
have the system inspected by an electrician and safety inspectors and so 
on, and they must be insurable. It is possible to grow tomatoes and 
daffodils indoors, and it is also possible to grow cannabis safely in a 
home, as has been shown in a book by federally licensed medical marijuana 
growers Eric Nash and Wendy Little called Sell Marijuana Legally. We could 
restrict wattage per person so people won't try turning a whole 
three-bedroom house into a 20,000-watt grow facility. These home-growers 
would be under the same sales and sharing practices as the home wine and 
beer models. Next, we license commercial growers. They would have to 
account for every gram and there would be quality and controls.

These products would then be distributed to adults with a valid ID through 
compassion clubs, "coffee shops," beer and liquor stores and similar 
outlets. This would be huge competition forgangs because who in their right 
mind would buy crappy weed from a creepy dealer when quality controlled bud 
is available in a cafe or beer store?

With a legitimate market established, the police will find it easier to 
differentiate between the gangs who grow for export, and the commercial 
growers who grow for the domestic market. They will have more money, time, 
and resources to stop real criminals. We could then also afford to increase 
border control and add financing to our military and coast guards. The rest 
goes into education to reduce the numbers of teen pot users, and to health 
care to offset any health problems that may arise.

This system would generate $3 billion in tax revenue, help keep cannabis 
out of the reach of children, reduce harm by implementing quality controls 
and reduce the black market. Police would have the same powers they do now 
with alcohol.

The other option is the costly policy of building more courts, more jails, 
and increasing police budgets. This not only generates no income, there is 
no evidence to suggest it deters criminals or reduces the number of people 
growing or using cannabis. All evidence suggests that increasing penalties 
and implementing mandatory minimum sentences only increase criminal 
competition and violence.

Mandatory minimum sentences have failed in the U.S. where they have the 
largest cannabis market and production in the world, along with the largest 
prison population in the history of the world. Anyone who endorses 
increasing prohibition is endorsing a system that costs taxpayers a 
fortune, endangers Canadians (especially kids and police officers), 
subsidizes organized crime to the tune of over $10 billion tax-free every 
year, has no end in sight, and where cannabis is easier for kids to get 
than alcohol or tobacco. Just which part of this simple logic is so hard 
for people to understand?

Russell Barth

Educators For Sensible Drug Policy

Ottawa, Ont.
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