The Conservative government and the Liberal-dominated Senate may find this a buzz-kill but a drug expert says neither of their approaches to prosecuting pot producers makes sense.
Earlier this year, MPs passed a drug bill that included a mandatory minimum sentence of six months in jail for growing as few as five pot plants. Drug reform advocates slammed the legislation as draconian. Then the Senate began pruning the bill and just passed an amended version.
The rewritten bill would spare pot growers an automatic jail term unless they're caught cultivating more than 200 plants. The Senate has now punted the legislation back to the House of Commons where it could be gutted and redrafted.
Meanwhile, pot producers will merrily continue running their grow-ops and raking in astronomical amounts of tax-free money, people will continue smoking pot and getting cravings for the munchies and Canadians will continue wondering if all politicians are spaced out.
( In other words, are pot grow-ops a national priority compared to, say, joblessness, a floundering economy, a teetering health-care system or how we're going to afford to repair our crumbling infrastructure? )
But if our politicians insist on focusing on pot grow-ops, our laws should at least reflect the reality of marijuana cultivation.
That is, legislation should be based on the number of lights, not plants, says Darryl Plecas, director of the Centre for Criminal Justice Research at the University of the Fraser Valley.
One 1000-watt bulb will produce a pound of dried bud no matter how many plants you have, he explains. If one grower has one plant under one light, he'll produce one pound of pot. If he's got 16 plants under one light ( the typical scenario ), he'll still only end up with one pound of bud. The 16 plants just won't grow as high.
Growers will simply adjust their cultivation patterns to reflect what's in the legislation, says Plecas. "The Senate could not have gone further to perpetuate the number and problem of grow operations."
Over the next couple of years, growers will just shift the way they operate -- fewer plants but more lights, he explains. "Why would somebody need to have 200 plants?"
And more lights will mean more theft of electricity and an increasing likelihood of fires, says Plecas.
B.C. criminology student and medical marijuana patient Brian Carlisle, who has helped Plecas with his research, began experimenting with plants and light several years ago.
He says he was shocked to find out that it didn't matter how many plants he grew. One bulb over six plants, for instance, produced the same amount of pot as one plant under one bulb. The number of lights, therefore, is the most accurate way to determine the production level of an indoor grow-op, says Carlisle.
"I think ( politicians ) are being fed incorrect information," he says.
Plecas says the legislation should have ignored the number of plants and set jail terms for more than five lights.
"Once you get beyond five lights ... it's clearly more than can be consumed for personal use."
How times have changed. Remember when a Senate committee recommended that pot be legalized?
December 18, 2009
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Shedding Some Light On Canada's Pot Laws