Vancouver Police Department on Wrong Side of Drug Policy Debate

Why is the Vancouver Police Department trying to manipulate the Senate of Canada?

On December 8, one day before a key vote, the department issued a statement opposing minor amendments to Bill C-15. The proposed law would create mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug offences. Numerous policy experts have criticized the bill, stating that it will do nothing to address the crime, addiction, disease, and death generated by the black market for illegal drugs.

A Senate committee studied the legislation and suggested a few modest changes. Inspector Brad Desmarais responded by announcing the amendments would “create a huge industry” of small marijuana grows designed to skirt the mandatory minimums.

It is true that the number of plants now required for a mandatory jail term has increased from the initial quantity of six, but this change will not affect residential areas. Another section of the bill already ensures that marijuana grows in those neighborhoods will result in a nine-month jail sentence, provided they pose a “potential public safety hazard”. This vague and broadly worded clause should be easy to prove in court, particularly as law-enforcement officials have spent years talking about the dangers of clandestine marijuana operations.

The provision regarding rental properties also remains intact. Canadians who live in basement suites or small apartments will receive a minimum prison sentence of nine months if they grow any number of marijuana plants—even one—for the purpose of trafficking. This will ensnare working folks and college students who can’t afford their own homes but still grow small amounts of cannabis for themselves and a few friends. Of course, these are the very people who have chosen to obtain their drug of choice in a manner that avoids contact with gangsters and organized crime.

Rank and file police officers will be saddled with investigating these micro-grows. Officers will put genuine police work on hold in order to deal with civil matters presented in the form of “intelligence” about the drug trade. For example, a landlord might be looking for an excuse to kick out his tenants and increase the rent. He will call the police about a couple of innocuous plants sitting on the window sill. Another man seeking custody of his children will demand officers investigate the tiny grow in his ex-wife’s new home.

Clearly, the amended Bill C-15 still casts a wide net against small producers who participate in one of British Columbia’s largest and most profitable industries.

Yet the modified bill is not good enough for Inspector Desmarais. He wants the government to have even more power and control over the lives of ordinary citizens. His ideal justice system would force a judge to send an elderly retired couple to jail for six months. Their crime? Profiting from seven or eight marijuana plants grown in the backwoods of their own rural property.

This is not a wise or effective use of criminal law. Every Canadian who cares about the principles of liberty and limited government should be deeply concerned about this intrusion by the state. And we should all be worried about the tax burden that will result from increasing marijuana enforcement during a time of deficit spending.

Illegal marijuana grow operations are a real problem, but the solution is to regulate and tax the industry. One can only hope that someday a major political party will have the courage to fight an election on this issue, particularly as national polls consistently show that more than 50 percent of Canadians want to end cannabis prohibition. Grassroots support is likely even higher in British Columbia and Quebec—two key battlegrounds in any future election campaign.

In the meantime, we are stuck with ham-handed intrusions from police agencies hawking a drug policy that has failed for decades. The VPD’s media release came after the federal minister of justice, Rob Nicholson, called on the Opposition leader to “lean on these people” in the Senate. The vote passed anyway, 49 to 43, in spite of the last-minute lobbying from law enforcement.

When will public-safety organizations realize that Canada needs a drug policy based on ethics and evidence, rather than political opportunity?

David Bratzer is a police officer in British Columbia. He also manages the blog for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. The opinions expressed in his essay are entirely his own.

– Article from The Georgia Straight.



  1. Dave on

    And the sad part is the good people of the US and Canada allow this. I suppose these prohibitionists have had about 70 years to perfect their statistics and resulting lies!

    I hope it doesn’t take us 70 years to unravel this mess. Somehow we need to get our unedited version through to the average reasonable citizen; but how?

    You know, here in Canada, during the last federal election, if I’m not mistaken, only about 30% of Canadians showed up to vote. The fascist Harper government ended up with a minority. So lets say that maybe 15% of Canadians are telling the other 85% how we need to live our lives. So, how in hell are, we, the meek going to inherit the earth?

    Wow, I better stop; I’m getting depressed! Oh, but I forgot, I have good medicine for that!……….. Ahhhh yes,……. nothing melts away the BS like good old traditional medicine!

  2. Anonymous on

    The police force should not have any form of political sway at all. They are to be public defenders of the law as is decided upon by the sitting government. It is not in the interest of the public to have the police enforcing the law and also having a say in it. I could maybe trust the police and government more if they also treated their own the same, no need to look far vancouver has its fair share of killer cops now walking free on the streets.

  3. Kada on

    Prohibition is law enforcements bread and butter in the US. They make a lot of money every time they bust someone with Cannabis. In my hometown someone just got busted with 100 pounds and lost everything they owed. The local police got a huge share of the money from the bust and paid for a new rifle range to be built. They also got a few new cruisers out of the deal. Now they are driving around mustangs and camaros.

    If they get these sort of perks from the drug war why would they ever want to give it up? Looks like the Canadian police are hoping it can become as sweet for them as it is in the states. It’s all about the money. IT ALWAYS IS.

  4. Anonymous on

    I think Canadian officials are being influenced , maybe even payed off by the U.S.A’s DEA to make tougher sentences.The U.S. knows that Vancouver is the Mecca pot capital of Canada.

    I’m so sick of this inhumane War on this plant and the people who have the right to use it, I’m in the U.S. but it doesn’t matter what country your in, the U.S. has put its influence on all Governments, its time for the U.S. Govt. to have its people go into a 1776 style Revolution.

    Never do you here these proponents of prohibition talking about how the Founding Fathers of the 13 Colonies grew Cannabis , George Washington is proven to have smoked it for toothaches. They had farms Cannabis growing, but the Government of today won’t hear the argument.

    The masses won’t stand for it much longer, the information age is upon us, lies are being broken , truths are coming forward, propaganda of the past no longer holds water, and the Govt. can only hold out the War for so much longer. I think about when it is finally legalized as it should’ve always been… what about all the people who are doing prison time…or who HAVE done prison time over this plant and lost valuable time and properties…how are they going to be re-paid for their losses? or will they?

    Certainly all those doing time will be released.

  5. Dave on

    By the article, some cops understand. Why aren’t his fellow members not acknowledging the harms caused by prohibition?

    Maybe they still have mortgages to pay down and kids to enroll in college?

  6. Anonymous on

    not just the VPD every polic department us canadians need to stand up and say enough with this bullshit!

  7. Chris Bennett on

    Maybe it is time to schedule in a protest at the Vancouver Police department to highlight their atrocious public record, and condemn Police working as an industry lobby group in direct opposition of the majority of vancouverites whom they serve.