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Pot growers will need to prove assets not financed by crops

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People convicted of growing marijuana will be required to prove their assets
were not purchased with money from drug sales, under new legislation the
provincial government plans to bring in this year.

Solicitor-general Rich Coleman said Friday the province will pursue drug
dealers through tax fraud.

"Remember that Al Capone didn't go to jail for the crimes he committed, he
went to jail for tax evasion," Coleman said. "There are tax laws in this
country that would enable us to do this. I think we just need to find the
same commitment."

The new legislation will put a reverse onus on convicted drug dealers to
show homes, cars and other assets they possess were not purchased with money
from the sale of marijuana.

"If you can't get them criminally, get them in the pocketbooks," Coleman

While the new legislation hasn't been completed, Coleman said it will be
patterned on current legislation that allows the provincial government to
audit businesses to make sure they are collecting sales tax properly.

Under that legislation, the onus is on business owners to prove they are not
guilty and provide six years worth of statements to back their defence.

In a speech to the Vancouver Board of Trade, Coleman said the proposed
legislation is just one way the provincial government is trying to crack
down on the marijuana drug trade.

The business community must also lobby the federal government to continue
its plans to double the penalty for convicted growing operators, he said.

"The message has to be that it's time to reflect the principles of our
communities,and it's time for you to work with us to get the penalties we
need to fight back against crime in British Columbia," Coleman said to
enthusiastic applause.

Stiffer penalties will hurt the marijuana trade in B.C. because it will
create more parity with the American system, according to Coleman, who
pointed out a first-time offender in Washington State gets an automatic jail
sentence. In comparison, 82 per cent of people charged with marijuana
growing operations in B.C. do no jail time.

Meanwhile, Coleman said tougher penalties for impaired drivers who receive a
24-hour roadside suspension are being considered by the provincial

However, he denied an online report that the province is planning to
decriminalize impaired driving, as proposed by law-enforcement officials in
a discussion paper.

"Our justice partners had some interest in us putting it in there for
discussion, but our input tells us we won't do that," he said. "It's out
there for discussion only."

Coleman said the majority of people involved in the discussion support
tougher penalties for people who drink and drive.

Pubdate: Saturday, January 31, 2004
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Contact: sunletters@png.canwest.com
Website: http://www.canada.com/vancouver/vancouversun/