Bill S-10’s mandatory minimum penalties will cost billions, pot advocate claims

A Vancouver marijuana-legalization advocate claims Bill S-10, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s latest attempt to stiffen penalties for drug crimes, would cost the federal government between $2 billion and $5 billion a year.

“We did an economic analysis based on the number of people charged in a given year and the average sentence they received and the sentence they would receive under a mandatory minimum, and we applied those numbers to known costs per prisoner in jail,” Jacob Hunter, policy director for the Beyond Prohibition Foundation, told the Straight via cellphone from Toronto, where he is campaigning to free jailed “Prince of Pot” Marc Emery.

Bill S-10, called the Penalties for Organized Drug Crime Act, would amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and make changes to various other laws. It would usher in mandatory minimum penalties for drugs such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana. The maximum sentence for marijuana production would be increased from seven to 14 years.

The government bill sits at second reading in the Senate, where it was introduced last month. Due to Harper’s proroguing of Parliament last year, S-10’s previous incarnation, Bill C-15, died on the order paper.

Unlike C-15, S-10 contains no language around mandatory minimum sentences for the cultivation of less than five marijuana plants.

However, according to Hunter, there is a potential loophole in Section 4 of the bill that could leave someone found baking a pot cookie “for the purpose of trafficking” facing an 18-month minimum sentence.

“It’s an attack on low-level offences,” Hunter said of S-10. “Every time these bills have been tried in the United States they have massively increased prison populations, massively increased cost to government, and have no effect on drug use and availability. To be perfectly honest and not hyperbolic, there is nothing about this bill that does anything other than raise costs and raise crime.”

Jeet-Kei Leung, spokesperson for the B.C. Compassion Club Society, told the Straight by phone, “Once again there are going to be dire consequences if this bill comes through at a number of different levels.”




Jun 16, 2010 at 8:24pm

According to neocons like Harper, the purpose of government is to increase opportunity for corporations and wealthy capitalists like him and his business partners. One way to increase profits and power is to build more and more prisons and to fill the prisons with people other than the white collar criminals like the typical neocons. This creates new business (ie- profit) opportunities in privatised prison construction and management. It also justifies the expansion of state powers, as well as the police, private security, and surveillance industries, which the neocons love because a total police state is their wet dream. To them, people are just laborers and customers, and with advances in automation there are too many of them, so warehousing a large number of people in prisons for profit is just another way of maintaining control and instilling desperation and fear in the populace, which makes them easier to delude and manipulate.

Herb Couch

Jun 16, 2010 at 10:03pm

Bill S-10, should be called the Support for Organized Drug Crime Act.
btw > It's spelled Marc Emery. The "c" is for cannabis.

Russell Barth

Jun 17, 2010 at 3:10am

Bill S-10 was designed specifically to raise crime and set the foundations to implement a US-style, for-profit prison system onto Canada. This policy has been wildly successful in the US - if, by "success" you mean "a handful of jail owners become even wealthier at taxpayer's expense and with a profound increase in crime".

Consider also that the vast majority of inmates will be men, and mostly under 40 years of age. This must be Stepehn Harper's plant to help women get ahead in the work place.

Consider also the enormous number of jobs in the prison industry: guards, drivers, cleaning and kitchen staff, and well paid bureaucrats as far as the eye can see!
Consider also the international investment in this Ganster-Subsidization legislation: Gangsters from all over the world will come to Canada to reap the benefits of this Al Capone atmosphere.

Maybe in a few years - after severed heads and headless bodies are displayed publicly in Canadian cities as they are every day in Mexico - Canadians will see the folly of voting for prohibitionist hacks who insist that only more prohibition can save us from the problems caused by prohibition.

glen p robbins

Jun 18, 2010 at 10:08am

C'mon let's get on with it--I didn't start smoking marijuana until after age 50. I just had knee surgery -- I'm asked -- "What are you taking for pain"

"I'm using marijuana --- and I want to be the next premier of British Columbia." (after writing it out --- I like the sounds of that --it's like I'd fit right in).

Bloomburg--mayor of New York says he has smoked pot and likes it--some of the richest people in the world admit to smoking pot (it isn't a problem for me) -

The response to me -- "we hear marijuana is being used alot in personal pain management.."

Look -- tommorrow --let's liberalize the laws on pot ---- major penalties for unlicensed individuals/or wilfully blind landlords---make minimum age 25 and to quote Senator Larry Campbell "tax the hell out of it"

Isn't Bill Vander Zalm -- an excellent gardner?

Kill Bill S-10

Oct 25, 2010 at 5:40am

this bill s-10 will cause more harm then good.6 plants 9 months thats a bad idea.

Harper you are going to cause the tax payers more grief and you will have to tax us more, and the HST hurt enough OUCH!!!

Wayne Phillips

Oct 25, 2010 at 3:12pm

The Conservative bill to jail offenders caught growing five or more marijuana plants will effectively grow crime. In doing so it will further insulate organized crime's elite while providing a constant supply of candidates for the gangland recruitment that goes on inside prisons.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson claims to believe Bill S-10 is directed at the people who would sell drugs to children. So What! Even if it is, this bill will not do what the Minister claims; all this bill will end up accomplishing is the creation of larger gangs who would still sell drugs to that many more children who, in turn, will sell to their friends, etc.

This, of course, will cause an increase in a myriad of crimes committed by youth (looking to fund their “habit”). That list will undoubtedly consist of both petty crimes and more serious offences as well as underage soliciting. In the end, more drugs, particularly cannabis, will still be easily gotten at competitive prices and with no restrictions to any and all that want them regardless of age or mental condition; the bottom line is organized crime will still profit immensely and the taxpayer will be expected to dig a bit deeper. The police applaud it all knowing there will be no shortage of overtime.

It is too bad the Conservatives think talking tough is superior to legislating intelligently.


Mar 8, 2011 at 12:26pm

Bill S-10 will fail to deter crime, it will cost taxpayer billions, it will do nothing to enhance public safety and it will overflow prisons with low-level, non-violent criminals who will come out of prison worse than when they went in.

Information Resources:
Bill S-10 "Penalties for organized drug crime act"

Opposition to Bill S-10 / Mandatory Minimum Sentencing (LONG list!)

Videos: Bill C-15 & Bill S-10 Senate Committee mtgs

VIDEO: Justice Minister Rob Nicholson defends Bill S-10, Mandatory Minimum Sentencing for low-level, non-violent drug

VIDEO: Senator John D. Wallace just doesn't get it! (Bill C-15 Senate Cttee)

David Bourgeois

Sep 21, 2011 at 3:49pm

Canada last legitimate Prime Minister, Jean Chretien, made the mistake of offending our American neighbours by his comments after 9-11. Harper is doing everything he can to turn Canada into a police state like the U.S. to show that we are now in lock-step with them.
Are Canadians just going to stand by as our sovereignty is compromised?
Like sheep, are we going to let right-wing conservatives trample on our rights as guaranteed under the Charter?
What would Trudeau, Diefenbaker and Pearson have to say?
Is Harper reflecting Canadian values?
Please let's stop this!

Orest H

Sep 27, 2011 at 8:49pm

Should make mandatory minimum sentences for taking Chinook helicopter joyrides at the tax payers expense. Actually no, MMS are crazy stupid.