David Bratzer: Vancouver police department on wrong side of drug policy debate

By David Bratzer

Why is the Vancouver Police Department trying to manipulate the Senate of Canada?

On December 8, one day before a key vote, the department issued a statement opposing minor amendments to Bill C-15. The proposed law would create mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug offences. Numerous policy experts have criticized the bill, stating that it will do nothing to address the crime, addiction, disease, and death generated by the black market for illegal drugs.

A Senate committee studied the legislation and suggested a few modest changes. Inspector Brad Desmarais responded by announcing the amendments would “create a huge industry” of small marijuana grows designed to skirt the mandatory minimums.

It is true that the number of plants now required for a mandatory jail term has increased from the initial quantity of six, but this change will not affect residential areas. Another section of the bill already ensures that marijuana grows in those neighborhoods will result in a nine-month jail sentence, provided they pose a “potential public safety hazard”. This vague and broadly worded clause should be easy to prove in court, particularly as law-enforcement officials have spent years talking about the dangers of clandestine marijuana operations.

The provision regarding rental properties also remains intact. Canadians who live in basement suites or small apartments will receive a minimum prison sentence of nine months if they grow any number of marijuana plants—even one—for the purpose of trafficking. This will ensnare working folks and college students who can’t afford their own homes but still grow small amounts of cannabis for themselves and a few friends. Of course, these are the very people who have chosen to obtain their drug of choice in a manner that avoids contact with gangsters and organized crime.

Rank and file police officers will be saddled with investigating these micro-grows. Officers will put genuine police work on hold in order to deal with civil matters presented in the form of “intelligence” about the drug trade. For example, a landlord might be looking for an excuse to kick out his tenants and increase the rent. He will call the police about a couple of innocuous plants sitting on the window sill. Another man seeking custody of his children will demand officers investigate the tiny grow in his ex-wife’s new home.

Clearly, the amended Bill C-15 still casts a wide net against small producers who participate in one of British Columbia’s largest and most profitable industries.

Yet the modified bill is not good enough for Inspector Desmarais. He wants the government to have even more power and control over the lives of ordinary citizens. His ideal justice system would force a judge to send an elderly retired couple to jail for six months. Their crime? Profiting from seven or eight marijuana plants grown in the backwoods of their own rural property.

This is not a wise or effective use of criminal law. Every Canadian who cares about the principles of liberty and limited government should be deeply concerned about this intrusion by the state. And we should all be worried about the tax burden that will result from increasing marijuana enforcement during a time of deficit spending.

Illegal marijuana grow operations are a real problem, but the solution is to regulate and tax the industry. One can only hope that someday a major political party will have the courage to fight an election on this issue, particularly as national polls consistently show that more than 50 percent of Canadians want to end cannabis prohibition. Grassroots support is likely even higher in British Columbia and Quebec—two key battlegrounds in any future election campaign.

In the meantime, we are stuck with ham-handed intrusions from police agencies hawking a drug policy that has failed for decades. The VPD’s media release came after the federal minister of justice, Rob Nicholson, called on the Opposition leader to “lean on these people” in the Senate. The vote passed anyway, 49 to 43, in spite of the last-minute lobbying from law enforcement.

When will public-safety organizations realize that Canada needs a drug policy based on ethics and evidence, rather than political opportunity?

David Bratzer is a police officer in British Columbia. He also manages the blog for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. The opinions expressed in his essay are entirely his own.

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10 Comments

Dave Dart

Dec 22, 2009 at 3:04pm

Wonderful, except that part about "illegal marijuana grow operations are a real problem." They are a police-manufactured problem, with the VPD being one of the worst offenders.

Growopaganda was created when the police and other social tyrants realized that no one believed the 'reefer madness' line anymore.

Anonymous

Dec 22, 2009 at 7:05pm

When police make policy, we all live in a police state.

pragprog

Dec 22, 2009 at 7:14pm

Well said, lets keep up the anti- growopaganda, especially by the police! Good to see some of them realizing that prohibition never works...just like alcohol, regulate and tax the industry instead. It will no doubt eventually happen, but gutless politicians, who are supposed to lead, instead take baby steps before finally catching up to public opinion. After that landmark day, onto regulating and taxing hard drugs, prostitution,etc...

Lea

Dec 23, 2009 at 12:58pm

To anyone that sees and understands the truth behind Prohibition it's still mind boggling that it continues. All it takes is the smallest amount of research to discover that cannabis is not evil, that the American politician who started Prohibition did it because he hated Mexicans, and in truth since alcohol prohibition was ended the already corrupt government needed a way to create another avenue of crime so they could look good and pretend like they were protecting the people.
People have been lied to repeatedly about marijuana. There are over 17,900 scientific/medical papers proving that it's a wonderful plant. In the U.S. the American Medical Association recently said it should be taken off of Schedule I. Schedule I means no medical value.
Anyone that has the smallest amount of distrust for their governments actions should have the smarts to realize that this game of Prohibition is yet another way to deceive and control your lives.
Because of these disgusting lies, law enforcement has jumped on their moralistic bandwagon and found a good way, to them, to fill prisons with non-violent "offenders".
And what are we left with? Filthy rich drug cartels that control what should have never been made illegal in the first place.

Lea

Dec 23, 2009 at 1:07pm

People are waking up to the truth. It's the politicians that are afraid for their careers that are dragging their feet.
All Canadians should realize that America is pulling the strings on this bogus war on drugs.
Stop the lies Canada, grow up politicians, study the real facts concerning Prohibition and break the chains that have tied you to idiot policies that started in America.

Marijuana has NEVER killed anyone. Now alcohol, how many deaths and how much violence is there centered around this "legal" drug?

Drew B.

Dec 23, 2009 at 2:05pm

First, I'd like to congratulate this website for using http://Drupal.org, the best Open Source Content Management System there is. :-)

David seems to be one of the few who can see the actual ramifications of what the draconians are putting forth.

I would add a few words to his last question, "When will public-safety organizations realize that Canada needs a drug policy based on ethics and evidence, rather than political opportunity <b>and (short-term) financial gain</b>?"

Congratulations to David for having the courage to face down the intense peer pressure I am sure he faces.

@ Dave Dart, maybe what David B. meant by "illegal marijuana grow operations are a real problem" was that "because they are illegal that's a problem, they should be legal, darn it." (I put the "darn it" in for emphasis. :-) After all, LEAP is for legalization and regulation”¦

ElectroPigâ„¢ Von Fí¶kkenGrí¼í¼ven

Dec 28, 2009 at 8:54am

]> Drew B/Dave: "The problem" with grow-ops is that as long as a safe, non-toxic plant is illegal, it must be grown in hidden places, and this is where the grow-op phenomonon really got started. Until you can grow a plant in your backyard openly and without idiotic laws against what is now known to be both a tretment and cure for many diseases--including diabetes, cancer, multiple sclerosis and many more, as it reacts positively with the human endocannabinoid system--and safer than alcohol, tobacco or even caffeine, things are only going to get worse.

How is putting someone in jail for saving people's lives with an "illegal plant" which has never killed a single person in over 10,000 years of known use in any way a good thing for society? How is making even more repressive and wilfull-ignorance-based laws a positive step?

This has gone on long enough, and must be stopped NOW, before it gets even further out of hand!

Please take the time to visit some of the links below to learn the TRUTH about cannabis/hemp, and start exerting pressure on your local politicians to do the intelligent thing...for a change...or VOTE THEM ALL OUT OF OFFICE!

Learn about Rick SImpson's latest brush with wilfully ignorant "law enforcement" here: http://overgrow.ning.com/group/News/forum/topics/rick-simpsons-home

Learn about the cure for cancer here:
http://PhoenixTears.ca
http://PhoenixTearsMovie.com

Learn about how cannabis/hemp was initially made illegal, and WHY it was really done here:
http://JackHerer.com

Learn more:
http://MPP.org
http://NORML.org
http://LEAP.cc <-- Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

L.E.A.P. shows you that not all police are deliberately doing the wrong thing...some of them are actually capable of rational thought and honest action!

Sally O'Boyle

Dec 28, 2009 at 9:50am

I'm 54 years old. I need someone's permission to ingest anything at all? Ridiculous.

My son is 18 years old, legally an adult in Costa Rica where we live and in many states. He may legally ingest alcohol and tobacco, both of which will kill you, but not marijuana which has never killed anyone and is a known miracle cure. Completely ridiculous.

Why do we stand for this?

Beenaroundtheblock

Dec 29, 2009 at 2:43pm

The TV plays up cops and lawyers as something much more exciting and brave as they really are.

The reality is if you are busted for cannabis, the lawyers in the phone book start at between $5000-$10,000, with no guarantees you will not be found guilty. Most usually spend just a few hours on a case. This is BIG business and a huge incentive to keep cannabis illegal. The light must be shone on this before anything can change.

As for the cops, what better way to ensure a nice big anti-drug budget if you present cannabis GARDENS as "growops" then say that they're a threat to your children and neighbours(laughable). As for a dangerous job: it is a fact that FARMERS have a higher chance of being hurt or killed on the job than a cop, WHY???? >>>>>Because the cops have enjoyed an image of courage that is so far from the truth it's scary. They LOVE marijuana busts (almost 0% chance of running into violence with lots of paid court time), it's MUDERERS they seem to try to avoid!
Yikes!

While not ALL cops and lawyers are accomplice to this scam(the biggest scam in the world beside military contracts), most are or they turn a blind eye to the obvious :
THIS IS A RACKET THAT THE COPS AND LAWYERS HAVE BEEN MAKING BILLIONS OFF OF FOR ALMOST A CENTURY NOW.

Only a bright light shone on that will put the REAL CRIMINALS on the run!