Referring to marijuana as “the currency that is used to bring other more serious drugs into the country,” Rob Nicholson, the Canadian justice minister, and members of Canada's Conservative party are pushing to introduce harsh minimum-sentencing laws for drug crimes, the Vancouver Sun reported April 23.
The Conservatives have proposed legislation that would impose a one-year mandatory jail sentence for selling marijuana that is linked to organized crime, or when a weapon is involved. The sentence would be increased to two years for dealing drugs like cocaine, heroin or methamphetamines to young people, or selling drugs near a school.
The legislation also proposes a six-month mandatory sentence for growing one to 200 marijuana plants to sell, and two years for growers of 500 plants or more.
Critics contended that the proposed legislation would not just target large dealers, but would send individual drug users to provincial prisons, where few treatment programs are available.
In a recent hearing, Libby Davies, a New Democrat from British Columbia, repeatedly asked Nicholson whether he has any evidence that minimum mandatory jail terms reduce crime. Davies said studies prepared for Canada's Justice Department showed that harsh drug sentences proved ineffective in the U.S. “Many states are repealing their mandatory minimums,” Davies said.
Nicholson said Canadians are confused about the legal status of smoking marijuana due to the initiative of the former Liberal government to decriminalize marijuana possession, and that his legislation “sends a strong message.”