Home-Grown Inmate

Home-Grown Inmate
Posted by CN Staff on March 27, 2005 at 10:13:16 PT
By Thane Burnett, Toronto Sun
Source: Toronto Sun
As prisons go, it is the highest security in the country. Today the jail cell is filled with laughter, good friends and a light fog of pot smoke. For another 95 days, until she's finished her nine-month drug sentence, Dianne Bruce spends her days and nights in the court-imposed confines of this well-equipped grow house. Except for visits to the doctor or three hours a week allotted to get groceries, Bruce can stay only here -- and grow better marijuana.
"Who else do you know who's in jail growing pot?" she asks, as her point is illuminated under 1,000-watt bulbs bathing plants with sun-bright light moving on electric tracks. Thanks to a curious conversion of Canadian punishment and compassion -- or an example of how ridiculous the "war on drugs" can become -- the 40-year-old Cramahe Township woman is under house arrest for pot possession, even as she continues to legally grow the stuff in her basement. In October 2001, police raided this home, near Colborne, and seized 18 kilos of marijuana. It was hardly a secret there were drugs here. Bruce had long been known as a pot champion -- helping more than 50 sick people who hold permits to use marijuana for medical reasons. Just 19 days after the raid, Bruce -- who suffers from a host of painful, chronic ailments including multiple sclerosis -- got her own medical exemption as well. She can legally grow and smoke it for herself. Though, as a result of the 2001 bust, she was handed a nine-month house arrest sentence in October after pleading guilty to production and possession of a controlled substance. Today -- with three months to go before being released -- she stands in her much-tended garden of pot and proudly introduces me to her favourite "mothers" and "babies." Each day in her home-jail, when she's not sleeping or throwing up, she spends about six hours down here in the brightness -- the end result of an $850-a-month hydro bill which her grandfather pays on his credit card. Fans create a cool tropical breeze from every direction. A recent two days spent out of her jail-house and in a Toronto hospital for a neck operation -- she used a special vaporizer to inhale her pot while there -- saw many of her tender plants back home take a turn for the worse. She's now just getting them green and healthy again. In her kitchen sits a new, $500 jug of organic growth enhancer -- Viagra for pot -- which should help. Her "babies" carry pet product names likes White Widow, California Orange and Williams Wonder. Like report cards, their diets and growing characteristics are tacked up on a nearby wall, next to a button that reads I'm Not A Criminal. In the comfortable confines of this court-ordered house of correction, she's had pot seeds delivered from Amsterdam, by courier, right to her front door. Her prison grow operation is just past large dogs, padlocked iron gates, floodlights and an electronic security system, which -- rather than keep her in -- protects her medicinal pot from outsiders. In all, she grows more than 100 plants for her own use -- just below the 137 she is allowed under her federal permit. She is not interested in flashing the obvious dichotomy of her incarceration-inspired labour in the face of authorities. Instead she quietly does her time for her crime -- while growing even better pot. Walking up the basement stairs, she notes: "Jail has helped me to grow new and improved (plants)." Even outside the glare of the grow rooms, her entire home is an ode to cannabis sativa, and the physical relief and judicial pain it has brought her. When you live and breathe it as she does, it filters through to everything else. Even her butter is made with cannabis. The home's walls are covered with pot posters and slogans -- Bad Laws Equal Bad Cops. A coffee cup laments I'd Rather Be Smoking. There's a welcome mat with an image of a marijuana leaf that reads Lady Dy's Helping Hands -- her slogan when she ran her compassion centre. The rug was seized during the police raid. The headband she wears today sports a leaf motif, as does the wrought iron headboard of the bed she sleeps on. Her bags of seeds -- which have cost her $295US for 10 small kernels -- rest in a pink sewing kit. Her home-jail has character and characters. ARRESTED 11 TIMES John, a coffee-truck driver who has been arrested 11 times for pot, sits at the kitchen table because his latest arrest and bail conditions mean he can't go back home. Across from him, Steven -- a hepatitis C, medical exemptee who wears a pot slogans sweater and under that a pot-sloganed T-shirt to go with his pot-sloganed wallet -- checks out plastic baggies of illegal drugs. Chocolate candies with smiles on each one. They are hundreds of treats -- costing him $1 each -- made with cannabis oil. They will go to his 72-year-old mom, who suffers from stomach cancer and arthritis. She takes four a day and says they help. Steven sits and delivers a sermon in favour of the leaf and against Canada's attitude on drugs, including -- even by recent images in the press -- linking organized crime outfits running grow-ops to small mom-and-pop gardens which dot this country. The federal licence program for the ailing is imploding, and the public falsely believes they have all been dealt with, he preaches. A man with Crohn's disease who has just walked in nods his approval. "We're fighting for survival," Steven continues. Behind him, the choir of a vaporizer running hot air through the cannabis Dianne has grown hums while it fills a cellophane bag with potent mist. Dianne -- up most of the morning throwing up -- does her big-house chores while drawing in from the bag. She cleans dried buds from the table. Squeezing them in her hand, they give off a slight odour of bubblegum. One of her dogs barks to get in. Her cat yawns. Her probation officer is on the phone to make sure she's in lock-up. And smoke from lit tokes turns the air in her jail cell slightly blue. "I feel very safe and secure in my prison," Dianne notes, gathering up glass jam bottles of her pot. She's straightening up her cell. In an hour or so, the OPP are supposed to drop by for tea. Source: Toronto Sun (CN ON)Author: Thane Burnett, Toronto SunPublished: March 27, 2005Copyright: 2005, Canoe Limited Partnership.Contact: editor tor.sunpub.comWebsite: Canada Archives
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