Tenants caught growing as few as six marijuana plants in their homes could face automatic jail terms of at least nine months under a federal drug-sentencing bill revived Wednesday in Canada. The bill imposes harsher penalties on home renters than on homeowners for growing identical amounts of pot.
Introduced for the third time after dying twice before, the bill, S-10
, removes discretion for judges to sentence as they see fit, proposing instead mandatory minimum jail terms for a variety of drug related crimes, reports Janice Tibbetts at The Vancouver Sun
The Harper government’s proposed legislation imposes stiffer penalties on renters than on homeowners for the same “crime,” which they claim is because it involves a third party. Actually, it’s more revealing of the Conservatives’ generally dismissive attitude toward low-income Canadians, according to some observers of the political scene.
”It is going to have a really detrimental effect on young people,” said Tara Lyons, a fourth-year sociology student at Carleton University in Ottawa.
“More young people rent dwellings because they can’t afford to buy their own, so this bill sets up a situation where the policies are crafted in the name of protecting children, but they are just presenting more harm to young people,” Lyons said.
Lyons, executive director of Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy
, was one of more than a dozen witnesses who urged the drug-sentencing bill be scrapped during House of Commons committee hearings last spring.
The penalty for being caught growing marijuana is generally enhanced by “trafficking” charges at the five-plant level, which would garner a minimum six-month jail term under the bill.
But for anyone captured under any of a number of broad “aggravating factors,” the minimum jail term is increased to nine months. The penalty goes up to a year for growing up to 200 plants, and two years for up to 500 plants.
Other “aggravating factors” include weapons found on the premises, “unsafe” locations, and — get this — whether growing cannabis plants “posed a danger to the public in a residential area.” Look out for major bullshit police testimony if this crappy legislation passes!
The bill would also impose mandatory minimum terms ranging from one to three years for drug-trafficking crimes.
The Senate, which took a look at the bill last fall, increased the number of plants from five to 200 to automatic incarceration, but left at at five in cases involving “aggravating factors.”
But Conservative Justice Minister Rob Nicholson on Wednesday ignored the Senate’s changes, instead resurrecting the bill as it passed in the House of Commons last June.
New Democratic Party MP Libby Davies, who stridently opposes mandatory minimum sentences for drugs, warned Wednesday that the bill will costs billions of dollars because mandatory terms for drug crimes will “clog up” Canada’s prison system.