CANNABIS CULTURE – Major players in the legal system are calling Canada’s Bill S-10 inhumane and unjust, and with good reason. The bill would amend Canada’s Controlled Drugs and Substances Act with mandatory minimum sentences for pot offences and increase the maximum, in some cases, to life behind bars.
Most media have focused on the fact that Bill S-10 would throw growers in jail for six months for a measly five plants. Yet there are far worse consequences for pot lovers in the bill’s frightening amendments, including a complete overhaul of Canada’s criminal justice system, jails, and ultimately our freedom-loving culture.
Although the Canadian Senate is still debating the bill, it is now dominated by Conservative members. So it is likely that the bill will pass in the Senate and be sent to the House of Commons for readings, debate and a final vote. Time is running short for Canadians to take action and voice their concerns.
You could be in jail for LIFE!
A read of Bill S-10 reveals that members of Canada’s cannabis culture will be jailed for a minimum of one year, and possibly for life if you are caught:
• Trafficking for the benefit of a criminal organization, which could conceivably include passing a joint, a seemingly innocent behaviour for which Marc Emery was charged with trafficking a few years back. Now if you happen to pass that joint to a biker, you could be in jail for life!
• Carrying a weapon while selling your favourite plant, which might conceivable include a stick, or even the kind of personal mace that women use to protect themselves from rape.
• Dealing with a drug record from anytime in the past ten years.
The sentence goes up to a minimum two years to life for dealing near a school or involving, in any way, a person under 18. This might mean you got busted driving your kid to school with a couple of weighed-out baggies.
Meanwhile, cannaphiles caught with even a mom-and-pop style operation could face mandatory minimum three-year sentences, since that’s the punishment, under Bill S-10, for more than five-hundred plants grown “for the purposes of trafficking”. Since, in the past, the courts have counted clones as full plants, a two-hundred-and-fifty plant sea-of-green operation with two-hundred-and-fifty clones sitting ready for the next crop would bust the five-hundred plant threshold. A judge couldn’t choose to sentence you to less.
Inhumane and Unjust
With such heinous new laws on the horizon, it is no surprise that major players in the criminal justice system are speaking out against it, including the Canadian Bar Association and the John Howard Society.
The John Howard Society was originally founded in British Columbia in 1931, and was named in honour of a prison reformer who lived in the 1700’s, and who sought to stop the abuse, torture and needless deaths of prisoners in Europe.
The John Howard Society has presented extensive briefs urging parliament to drop Bill S-10. When the bill was originally introduced in 2009 the society’s paper – titled “Ineffective, Unjust and Inhumane: Mandatory Prison Sentences for Drug Offences” – asserted that:
“Mandatory minimum sentences, particularly when they involve long periods of incarceration are incompatible with the Fundamental Principle of Sentencing … specifically that the sentence must be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender… as such they are liable to give rise to inhumane sentences…”
The paper went on to also explain that, according to Canadian principles of sentencing, enshrined in our criminal code, courts are obliged to explore, “…all available sanctions other than imprisonment that are reasonable in the circumstances …”
Bill S-10 clearly does not explore all available alternatives to imprisonment.
The Canadian Bar Association agrees
According to the Canadian Bar Association, which represents lawyers and judges across Canada, Bill S-10’s mandatory minimum sentences “…would not be an effective deterrent to crime”, the sentences would be “unjust and disproportionate”, and ultimately the new law “would not achieve its intended goal of greater public safety.”
Specifically, the Canadian Bar Association warned the senate that the provisions of Bill S-10 “…subvert important aspects of Canada’s sentencing regime, including principles of proportionality and individualization and reliance on judges to impose a just sentence after hearing all the facts in the individual case.”
Under Bill S-10, judges are stripped of their power to make a compassionate ruling.
US-Style Drug War
In the US, mandatory minimums and three-strikes laws have sent prison populations skyrocketing. In 2008, over 7.3 million people were in jail or on probation in the US, higher than any other nation in the world. The massive rise in US imprisonment began at the same time as former US President Reagan’s war on drugs.
The cost of housing millions of prisoners has sucked the US public well dry, resulting in cuts to education and other social programs. Prisons have faced wide-scale privatization, and frequently they turn a profit by paying prisoners pennies to work on assembly lines behind bars. Major corporations benefit from prison labour, and some have even closed their regular plants to avail themselves of a less costly work force. As a result, communities have been devastated (See “US Prison Empire”, CC #30).
The ultimate outcome is a circle of prison-feudalism. Some people, desperate and out of work, turn to crime: sometimes even to benevolent so-called “crime” like growing and selling a little pot. If caught, they are thrown in prison and work on assembly lines that take jobs from people in thriving communities.
The NDP is on our side
In a letter released to Cannabis Culture by BC Southern Interior NDP MP Alex Atamanenko, the MP is clear that the NDP are trying to defeat Bill S-10.
“My colleagues and I voted a resounding NO when this Bill was introduced in the House as Bill C-15, but it was passed with the support of the Liberal Party. Now we have a second chance to stop this wrong-headed and costly legislation.”
Our second chance, as Canadians, is to make the choice to pick up the phone and call our MP’s. Obvious targets are Liberal MP’s, who we want to impress with our calm but determined opinions against Bill S-10. Since Canada currently has a minority government, if the NDP and Liberals vote together against this bill, it could be stopped.
We might also call the NDP and ask them to stay strong in voting against this bill, or we might call the conservatives and ask them to reconsider. The important thing is to pick up the phone and make the call to stop a US-style drug war on Canadian soil.
Sentences for Growing Pot under Bill S-10
• Six months to 14 years if the number of plants is between 5 and 200.
• Nine months to 14 years for 5 to 200 plants, grown for the purpose of trafficking.
• One to 14 years for 200 to 500 plants.
• Eighteen months to 14 years for 200 to 500 plants, grown for the purpose of trafficking.
• Two to 14 years for 500 or more plants.
• Three to 14 years if for 500 or more plants, grown for the purpose of trafficking.
YOU CAN HELP STOP S-10 FROM BECOMING CANADIAN LAW
Please contact your Senator and Member of Parliament and tell them to VOTE NO on Bill S-10. No mandatory minimums for marijuana!
Find a link to your Senator’s contact info on this list – or call them all!
Let the Liberal Party know you are against this bill – call Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff: (613) 995-9364
Sign up at WhyProhibition.ca to get involved in marijuana activism online and receive regular updates about S-10 and protest actions in your area.
Watch Cannabis Culture for more news about Bill S-10 and upcoming activism events.