Pubdate: Tue, 03 Oct 2006
Source: Standard Freeholder (Cornwall, CN ON)
Copyright: 2006 Osprey Media Group Inc
Author: Kevin Parkinson
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


To the editor:

A recent report in the Standard Freeholder outlined the details of a 
deadly shooting at a marijuana grow-op in the area.

The gist of the article was that the grow-op industry is booming, 
producing huge revenues. It is the wealth of this illicit industry 
that is causing the violent crime. In fact, it is because of the laws 
that make marijuana illegal, that the prices are high, which causes 
the black market to flourish which in turn leads to conflict and violence.

The result of making marijuana laws more severe in Canada can be 
illustrated by the failure in the United States over the past 30 
years. Prohibition simply doesn't work, as the States found out in 
the 1920s with alcohol.

Today, the majority of well over 2.2 million inmates in the U.S. are 
incarcerated because of the war on drugs. The U.S. has less than five 
per cent of the world's population and 25 per cent of the world's 
nine million prisoners. The rate of incarceration is over five times 
higher than it was in 1971 when the "war on drugs" was declared.

Clearly, the war on drugs has been lost, and will never be won using 
current, punitive measures.

Despite the huge increase in incarceration, the amount and quality of 
drugs keeps increasing and are easily available on the street. The 
Economist (2001) reported that the retail sales in all illegal drugs 
in the United States were $60 billion! Treatment and prevention, not 
punishment is needed.

If we compare Canada and the United States with respect to 
incarceration, we find a huge gap separating values and treatment of 
citizens. In 1999, the U.S. incarcerated 715 citizens per 100,000 as 
compared to Canada at 116 citizens per 100,000. The only winner in 
the American war on drugs has been the prison industry that has been 
taken over by big business in many cases.

So, I can understand why Canadian judges are unwilling to impose 
longer sentences on marijuana related offences, with two of the 
reasons being a shortage of prison space, and the enormous cost of 
housing such prisoners ($50,000-plus per year).

However, I can understand the frustration of police officers that are 
trying to eliminate the criminal networks being spawned by the 
marijuana grow-ops. It must seem to the police that the courts are 
not supporting them.

The time has come to start thinking differently about marijuana 
possession, and to come up with some innovative approaches to the use 
of marijuana in Canada.

We need to stop criminalizing 30,000 pot-using Canadians, who face 
obstacles due to criminal records.

There are other alternatives. One suggestion is if small amounts of 
marijuana were legalized for personal use as they are in Holland, the 
grow operations would begin to decline. If marijuana cultivation for 
personal use were made legal, the price would hit rock bottom and 
would sell for the same price as other plants.

I would suggest that communities need to address the marijuana issue, 
including the police forces, and make recommendations to the federal 
government to illuminate this important issue.

Kevin Parkinson

- ---
MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman