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Mandatory Drug Sentencing Returns To Senate

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
A Conservative bill to jail offenders caught growing five or more marijuana plants was back before the Senate Wednesday, a year after it made the rare move of watering down the government's proposals by raising the bar to 200 plants.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson ignored the Senate amendments when he resurrected his proposed legislation last spring, and the upper chamber, which has fewer Liberals than it did a year ago, has less muscle to balk this time around.

Nicholson warned a Senate committee Wednesday that amending his proposed legislation again "would severely weaken the bill" so that a person involved in organized crime could have 150 plants in several locations and escape jail nonetheless.

"This is directed at traffickers, the people who would sell drugs to children," Nicholson said.

He said there is no way that someone who grows 150 plants does not intend to sell marijuana, although he acknowledged it could be harder to prove trafficking when a grower is caught with seven plants.

His bill, if passed, would impose mandatory incarceration for a variety of drug-related crimes for the first time in Canada, adding to more than two dozen criminal offences that already carry automatic imprisonment.

The makeup of the Senate has changed since it voted 49-43 last December to amend the bill, making it one of the only times in recent years that the upper chamber altered a proposed government law.

There are now 52 Conservatives, 49 Liberals and four others.

The Tories still do not have the majority they need to ensure the bill sails through without amendments, but they have more pull than they did a year ago.

Nicholson revived his bill after his former proposals died when Prime Minister Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament last December.

The first bill passed easily in the House of Commons in June 2009 after the Liberals teamed up with the Conservatives, despite grumbling within Grit ranks that they were being told to support a bad bill so they wouldn't be accused of being soft on crime.

Nicholson's proposed legislation would impose mandatory six-month terms for growing five or more plants with the intent to sell them, and one-year sentences when marijuana dealing is linked to organized crime or a weapon is involved.

Sentences would increase to two years for dealing such drugs as cocaine, heroin or methamphetamine to young people, or pushing drugs near a school or other places frequented by youths.

While the Liberals in the Commons supported the last bill, Liberal MP Brian Murphy, who sits on the Commons justice committee, has said that his party's continued backing is not "a sure bet."

NewsHawk: User: 420 MAGAZINE
Source: vancouversun.com
Author: Janice Tibbetts
Copyright: 2010 Postmedia Network Inc.
Contact: Contact Us - Vancouver Sun
Website: Mandatory drug sentencing returns to Senate
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