Cops Caught in Middle of Drug War

Cops Caught in Middle of Drug War
Posted by CN Staff on July 27, 2003 at 07:49:54 PT
By Mindelle Jacobs -- Edmonton Sun
Source: Edmonton Sun
It must be demoralizing to be a drug cop. While our politicians and pro- and anti-liberalization forces endlessly debate how to curb drug use, the police are stuck in the middle. They're supposed to uphold the law but the line's getting blurry. Some judges have declared that there's no law banning marijuana possession. To arrest or not to arrest? 
Ottawa says it intends to move ahead with the decriminalization of the possession of small amounts of pot, while continuing to crack down on those who produce and sell the stuff. The truth is the people involved in marijuana grow-ops are laughing all the way to the bank. Our politicians would like you to believe that we're tough on pot cultivators and traffickers. Remember, cannabis accounted for three-quarters of the more than 90,000 drug incidents reported to police last year. But cultivating pot - at least in B.C. - appears to be a walk in the park. It's extremely lucrative and if you're caught it's likely you won't even go to jail. The University College of the Fraser Valley and a Vancouver law reform group published an interesting study last year on marijuana grow-ops in B.C. What they discovered must make drug cops want to tear their hair out. The researchers looked at charges laid against 4,700 suspects between 1997 and 2000 and found that the prospect of obtaining a conviction was minimal. Cultivation of marijuana charges were withdrawn in 53% of the cases and charges of possession of marijuana for the purposes of trafficking were withdrawn in 83% of the cases. Overall, 43% of the suspects had all charges stayed. People are innocent until proven guilty, of course, and there may simply have not been enough evidence to secure a conviction. But what must really irk the cops is that even those who were convicted received unbelievably light sentences. Only 18% of the offenders were sent to jail. The vast majority received either conditional sentences, probation or a fine. It gets worse. The average prison term was four-and-a-half months and the severity of the sentence wasn't significantly affected by whether the offender had a record. For instance, if the offender had no previous convictions, the average jail term was just under four months. If he had nine or more previous convictions, the average prison sentence was five months. Now that ought to scare the poop out of anyone thinking of getting into the grow-op biz. Even previous convictions related to drug production or trafficking seemed to make no difference to the judges. An offender with one prior cultivation or trafficking conviction spent an average of five months in jail. Someone with eight previous such convictions ended up in the slammer for five-and-a-half months. Out of curiosity, the study's researchers compared the offenders' sentences with what they would have received if they'd been tried across the border in Washington state. There, 48% of the criminals would have received minimum five-year jail terms. Here, more than 80% of them were spared prison. Even the B.C. fines imposed were negligible. They even dropped, from an average of $2,017 in 1997 to $1,845 in 2000. The largest fine was a mere $18,000 - small potatoes to the movers and shakers in the drug world. The police are now seizing about two million marijuana plants a year in Canada - up from 238,000 a decade ago, and there are an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 grow-ops in the B.C. Lower Mainland alone. You have to wonder why our police departments spend millions of dollars on drug enforcement when we let the growers and traffickers off with a slap on the wrist. The optics are terrible here. Ottawa says it reviles drug barons but that's not reflected in sentencing. Ottawa doesn't have the will to mandate minimum sentences for grow-op offenders. So we might as well completely legalize pot and be done with it. Source: Edmonton Sun (CN AB) Author: Mindelle Jacobs -- Edmonton SunPublished:  July 27, 2003Copyright: 2003 Canoe Limited PartnershipContact: letters edm.sunpub.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:Cannabis News Canadian Links Advised To Delay Pot Possession Charges Tickets Issued To Pot Smokers Police Follow Pot Ruling
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Comment #3 posted by Motavation on July 29, 2003 at 02:21:13 PT:
Common Sense, but who do we quote?
"So we might as well completely legalize pot and be done with it." Who is the author of intellegent thinking? Who is this? he said? she said?
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Comment #2 posted by John Tyler on July 27, 2003 at 18:37:56 PT
With these numbers (pun intended), legalization is the only answer. 
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Comment #1 posted by TroutMask on July 27, 2003 at 10:33:19 PT
No wonder!
"You have to wonder why our police departments spend millions of dollars on drug enforcement when we let the growers and traffickers off with a slap on the wrist."No you don't. Your choices are either legalize marijuana or begin building a gigantic prison system to jail ever increasing numbers of your citizens who choose to use marijuana. Just take a look at what the US is doing and the results we get. How much do you really have to wonder? The answer is to STOP spending millions of dollars on drug enforcement!-TM
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