Cop killing blamed on cannabis

On March 3, a terrible tragedy unfolded when a cop-hating, deranged, reclusive loony with a love of guns and a history of violent behavior killed four RCMP officers and then shot himself. Within hours, police spokespeople and government ministers were blaming the deaths on the killer’s grow operation.
Top RCMP official, Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli called a press conference where he commented that grow operations are “a major, serious threat to our society – a plague on our society now.

Public Safety Minister Anne Mclellan promised that she and Justice Minister Irwin Cotler will take a second look at decriminalization legislation and consider rewriting it to include tougher penalties for growers.

Strangely, police spokespeople and government ministers failed to note the most convincing reason why James Roszko killed those four officers: he was seriously mentally unhinged. According to his parents, things started going wrong for him at age 12, when they divorced. After the split-up, Roszko broke into a gun store, beginning a long-standing fascination with firearms. In 1993, he was charged with assault with a weapon, pointing a firearm and impersonating an officer; in 1999 he was charged for shooting at two trespassers; and he was scheduled next month for a court appearance for flattening tires with spike belts on his driveway. His own father called him “a devil” and locals were so terrified of him that they refused to give their names to the media when they characterized him as a “dangerous recluse.” His lawyer, Guy Fontaine, says Roszko felt harassed by the police, for whom he had developed a lasting grudge. In short, Roszko’s reclusiveness, violent tendencies, obsession with firearms and feelings of being oppressed by a powerful group means he fit perfectly the mass murderer profile.

Conspicuously absent from government and police commentary was any mention of how Rozko might have been diagnosed as mentally unstable during a recent stay in prison, or how the officers involved might have been better warned and prepared to deal with him.

Meanwhile, the conservative news website Bourque Newswatch ( headlined a link that on their site read “Marijuana activists revel in RCMP Killings.” Their headline, however, linked to an unfortunate and angry post by a non-activist in Cannabis Culture‘s online forums. Upon protest from several real marijuana activists, Bourque removed their link. The non-activist’s distasteful post was voluntarily removed from CC’s site.

There isn’t a single activist I know who hasn’t expressed outrage and sadness at these officers’ deaths. The attempt to demonize marijuana culture by politicizing the actions of a deranged, dangerous individual is more than pathetic. It shows complete disregard for the untimely deaths of four human beings. It also forces the hand of anti-prohibitionists to defend the cannabis culture from a disparaging and illogical attack.

At least one high-profile non-activist attempted to bring sanity to the issue. To his credit, former Alberta Liberal Party Leader Nick Taylor, also a former senator, argued that if Canadians really want to fix the problem, we should end prohibition.

“The way we’ve done it now is marijuana has become the exclusive prerogative of the criminal element because there’s such fantastic profit in it,” Taylor said in an interview. “I’m not saying that the four men would be alive if we had legalized marijuana, but I suspect they might be.”

Taylor further encouraged his party to vote in favour of a resolution, introduced by the Alberta Liberals, to legalize marijuana.

Taylor has a good point, but his statement that the four officers might be dead even if marijuana were legalized points to an even deeper truth about efforts to scapegoat growers for the work of a single killer. It would be equally logical to outlaw spreadsheets because Paul Bernardo, the Scarborough rapist, was an accountant. In the past 20 years there have been hundreds of mass and serial murderers (see, and only one of them was a marijuana grower, which if anything means that marijuana growers are less likely to go on a killing rampage than your average Joe.

The deeper truth? There is simply no connection between the act of growing pot and committing mass murder.