Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) has intervened in the debate over the Canadian government’s crime bill. The group, composed of current and former members of law enforcement and other criminal justice professionals, sent a letter Wednesday to Canadian parliamentarians, warning them of the consequences of adopting a harsh approach and urging them to instead regulate and tax marijuana.
The pending crime bill, C-10, has already passed the lower chamber of the parliament and is currently before the Senate. The bill would impose mandatory minimum sentences for a number of offenses, including growing as few as six marijuana plants.
“Through our years of service enforcing anti-marijuana laws, we have seen the devastating consequences of these laws. Among the greatest concerns is the growth in organized crime and gang violence. Just as with alcohol prohibition, gang violence, corruption and social decay have marched in lockstep with marijuana prohibition,” the LEAP letter said.
LEAP is not alone in opposing the Tories’ crime bill. It is also opposed by the New Democrats and the Liberals. Earlier this month, four former British Columbia attorneys general called for marijuana legalization, and days later, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations criticized the bill. Chief Shawn Atleo said aboriginal peoples with drug problems needed intervention and rehabilitation, not incarceration.
But the Tories aren’t listening to LEAP or anyone else. Responding to the LEAP letter, Canadian Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said he was unswayed.
“We develop our criminal law legislation looking at the experiences from around the world, from Britain and other countries,” Nicholson said at a news conference Wednesday in Regina. “But again, ours is a Canadian solution to Canadian issues and we make no apology for that.”
Nicholson also defended mandatory minimums and said the crime bill sends the right message.
“Over the years there has been introduced mandatory penalties by different governments. I think there’s about 40 of them in the criminal code, so they’re nothing new to this government,” he said. “But I believe they send out the right message to individuals that if you start bringing, for instance, drugs into this country, if you’re into the business of trafficking, there will be a price to pay and you’ll be going to jail.”
Although the Conservatives control the Senate, the bill isn’t passed until the bill is passed. Organizing against it continues.