Marijuana: 'Tough' law just election grab
Published: Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Prior to the last election, Stephen Harper introduced legislation which would give a six-month mandatory minimum sentence to anyone caught growing even as little as one marijuana plant.
Now, my opposition to prohibition is well documented, but the opposition to mandatory minimum sentences from prosecutors, defence attorneys, judges, criminologists, and virtually everybody who has a working set of eyes from which to view the evidence is staggering.
The legislation died in the process when the last election was called, but the Harper government felt that marijuana is such a problem that they must reintroduce the bill, which has just recently passed successfully through the house.
Sixteen groups and individuals provided testimony before Parliament, and 13 of the 16 said that mandatory minimum sentences do not work. Each of those witnesses provided at least a couple of legitimate scientific studies to prove their claims.
Three of the 16 said they support mandatory minimums, but not one could provide even a single study to suggest mandatory minimums work, just that they support them.
Why do mandatory minimums not work? First, they do not work as a deterrent, but more importantly, they take away judicial discretion. Bill C-15 would apply the same sentence to the medical user who cannot successfully get a "medpot" licence (less than two per cent who apply get one) and is growing five plants for personal use, and the large scale grower growing 199 plants for an organized criminal organization. Both people would get a mandatory minimum sentence of six months in jail.
This takes small-scale growers out of the market, increasing and protecting the monopoly that gangs have in the drug trade. Why would the Harper government want to do that? Their "tough on crime" approach has not worked as well as they have hoped. By introducing these "tough" sentences, we will see drug prices rise, gang profits rise, turf wars increase, more innocent bystanders get shot, and in turn, the frightened public will call for more prisons, more police, and more powers for the government and law enforcement.
One particularly dark moment in the 2008 US presidential election occurred when a John McCain advisor said that another terrorist attack on the US would help McCain win the election, as the public saw McCain as the "tough on terrorism" candidate.
This is precisely the mentality we see from the Conservatives. If crime increases, their "tough on crime" stance looks much more legitimate, and it will help them succeed politically. How could this objectively terrible bill pass in a minority government? Well, the answer lies in why the Conservatives introduced the bill in the first place. They know that mandatory minimums do not work. They simply want to appear "tough on crime," and most people in the general public are worrying more about putting food on the table for their children, and do not have the time to research whether or not these policies work.
The shocking part of this is that the Liberal Party has voted in lock step with the Conservatives to pass this bill. They have sold their soul as a party. They do not want to go in to an election looking "soft on crime," so they voted through a bill that they know is terrible.
I have been a federal Liberal supporter my entire life, but the party has now left me. When you go to the polls, as we inevitably will, remember that the Liberals exhibited the same type of "facts optional" approach to policy as the Harper Conservatives.
As for me, I will be voting Green.
Travis Erbacher, Langley