WEED BILL DOESN'T GO FAR ENOUGH, DUNLOP SAYS
Officials, says MPP, must also take aim at producers of other illegal substances
A law targeting indoor marijuana growers falls drastically short of the mark by ignoring other drugs that are crippling communities across North America, charges Garfield Dunlop.
The local MPP says the Ontario government is failing to attack producers of crystal methamphetamine with the same vigor as the grow ops that are being targeted under legislation that gives police and utility officials sweeping new powers.
"Any kind of an illegal drug that becomes a public safety issue should be included in this legislation," he said. "This was just a fancy announcement to show they are doing something. But they didn't want to touch crystal meth."
Dunlop argues that bill 128 doesn't go far enough, and fails to address the rising popularity of highly addictive stimulants like crystal meth, a drug police say is migrating to Ontario from Canada's western provinces.
"It is a huge, huge problem and they are only putting a dint in it right now," he added. "We are passing legislation that is only a half version of what it should be."
Under the proposed law, proceeds from the sale of real estate, vehicles and other goods seized from indoor pot farms would be spent on law enforcement, crime prevention and compensating victims.
The legislation would also empower local hydro companies to disconnect service to grow-ops without warning, and double penalties for fire code violations.
Building inspections would become mandatory for all homes harboring grow ops, with repairs ordered for those deemed unsafe.
"This is a fight the police can't win alone," Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Monte Kwinter said. "With a concerted effort by all involved, our neighbourhoods and communities will be safer places to live."
Dunlop argues that expansive new powers allowed under the legislation should apply equally to homes occupied by laboratories where crystal meth, ecstasy and other drugs are manufactured.
An amendment to that effect, proposed by Dunlop in recent months, was flatly rejected.
"What is the downside to making the bill stronger?" he added. "I just don't understand it."
Reached by The Sun, a ministry spokesperson said the task force responsible for the grow-op bill is now preparing to tackle crystal meth.
"We need a good wholesome solution," said Andrew Hilton.
He said the legislation was tailored specifically to address the problem of indoor grow ops, and would be difficult, if not impossible, to apply to other drugs.
"Crystal meth is a different kettle of fish," he added. "The labs themselves are different.
"It is a bit of a different scenario, and different in terms of how you find them and the powers you can use to shut them down," he added.
The province additionally supports a call for Ottawa to introduce tougher penalties for those involved in the production and sale of crystal meth, Hilton said.
"We want to work with the federal government," he added.
Despite his ill-fated attempt to broaden the scope of the bill, Dunlop was successful in amending the legislation to ensure municipal authorities play a role in the inspection of properties that house grow ops.
The bill has since passed second reading, and could be approved by early fall.