Thursday, December 24, 2009

Dope-growers must be homeowners?

While I was on the bus last week I met a man who is an immigrant from the US who said he loves Canada. I asked why, and he said he loves it because he has a license to grow medical marijuana here. He uses the stuff for arthritis pain and his contract with the government allows him to grow for himself and for compassion clubs.

I didn't ask him if he owns his own home, but according to an article by Matthew Burrows in the Georgia Straight recently, the Conservatives' new Bill C-15 will criminalize tenants who grow the weed, even for legitimate purposes. Here's the link:

I went to look for the bill to see if Burrows' conclusion might be correct, and I'm still not entirely sure if he's right or not. I was reading the Legislative Summary and I have to admit it made me crosseyed because there are so many variables, but it looks as if, depending on some of the variables, a person could get up to 14 years in jail for growing cannabis in someone else's property (I suppose this is where renting comes in), compared with only 7 or maybe even 5 years maximum if that and some other qualifiers are avoided. Sounds like a lot until you realize that the bill provides a maximum of life in prison for dealing in other drugs.

Here's the section about mandatory minimum sentences, from the Lebislative Summary of the bill written last January, 2009 (the summary has a disclaimer saying it doesn't assert that it is really accurate about the content of the bill itself - it's not ). I put sections that seemed relevant to marihuana sentencing in bold, in case you want to try to unravel it yourself.

A. Clauses 1 to 3: Mandatory Minimum Sentences
Sections 5 to 7 of the CDSA deal with, respectively, the offences of trafficking in a controlled substance, importing and exporting such a substance, and the production of a controlled substance. Clauses 1 to 3 of Bill C-15 amend each of these sections.

The current section 5(3)(a) of the CDSA makes trafficking in a substance included in Schedule I or II an indictable offence. The maximum punishment for this offence is imprisonment for life. This measure reflects the seriousness with which these substances are viewed, particularly the opiates and coca and its derivatives found in Schedule I. One exception is found in section 5(4) of the Act and concerns trafficking in Schedule II substances, mainly cannabis and its derivatives. Should the amount trafficked not exceed the amounts set out in Schedule VII to the Act (3 kg of cannabis resin or cannabis [marihuana]), the maximum possible punishment is imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years less a day.

Clause 1 of Bill C-15 amends section 5(3)(a) of the CDSA to provide in certain circumstances for mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment for the offence of trafficking in a substance included in Schedule I or in Schedule II if the amount of the Schedule II substance exceeds the amount for that substance set out in Schedule VII. There will be a minimum punishment of imprisonment for one year if certain aggravating factors apply: the offence was committed for a criminal organization, as that term is defined in section 467.1(1) of the Criminal Code (a group of three or more people whose purpose is to commit serious offences for material benefit); there was the use or threat of the use of violence in the commission of the offence; a weapon was carried, used or threatened to be used in the commission of the offence; or the offender was convicted of a designated substance offence, or had served a term of imprisonment for a designated substance offence, within the previous 10 years. A “designated substance offence” is defined in section 2 of the CDSA to mean any of the offences in sections 4 to 10 of the CDSA, except the offence of possession of a substance found in Schedule I, II, or III to the Act, as set out in subsection 4(1).

Clause 1 amends the CDSA to impose a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of two years if certain other aggravating factors apply, including that the offence was committed in or near a school, on or near school grounds, or in or near any other public place usually frequented by persons under the age of 18 years. Defining such places may prove to be difficult. The use of the term “community centre” in former subsection 810.1(3)(b) as a restriction on the movements of those who may commit a sexual offence against a child was found to be overly broad and, therefore, a violation of section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.(59) The minimum two-year punishment will also be imposed if the offender used the services of a person who is under 18 years of age, or involved such a person, in committing the offence or committed the offence in a prison, or on its grounds. The term “prison” is defined in section 2 of the Criminal Code to include a penitentiary, common jail, public or reformatory prison, lock-up, guard-room or other place in which persons who are charged with or convicted of offences are usually kept in custody.

New section 5(3)(a.1) of the CDSA reenacts the current section 5(4) of the CDSA and imposes a maximum punishment of imprisonment for five years less a day if the trafficking offence is for a small amount of cannabis or its derivatives, as listed in Schedule II.

The current section 6(3)(a) of the CDSA makes the importing into Canada or exporting from Canada of a substance included in Schedule I or II of the Act or the possession of such a substance for the purpose of exporting it from Canada an indictable offence. The maximum punishment for this offence is imprisonment for life. Lesser maximum punishments apply if the offence is committed in relation to substances in the other schedules.

Clause 2 of Bill C-15 imposes a mandatory minimum punishment of imprisonment for one year if the offence is committed for the purpose of trafficking and the substance involved is included in Schedule I and is in an amount that does not exceed one kilogram, or is listed in Schedule II. The minimum punishment will also apply if the offender, while committing the offence, abused a position of trust or authority or had access to an area that is restricted to authorized persons (such as in an airport) and used that access to commit the offence.(60) As in clauses 1 and 3, the maximum punishment of imprisonment for life is retained. Under new section 6(3)(a.1), the mandatory minimum punishment increases to two years’ imprisonment if the Schedule I substance that is trafficked is in an amount that exceeds one kilogram.

The current section 7(2)(a) of the CDSA makes the production of a substance included in Schedule I or II of the Act, other than cannabis (marihuana), an indictable offence with a maximum punishment of imprisonment for life. Subsection 7(2)(b) of the CDSA makes the production of cannabis (marihuana) an indictable offence with a maximum punishment of seven years’ imprisonment.

Clause 3 of Bill C-15 imposes a mandatory minimum punishment of imprisonment for two years if the subject matter of the production offence is a substance included in Schedule I, with a maximum punishment of imprisonment for life. The mandatory minimum punishment is increased to three years if any of the health and safety factors listed in new section 7(3) apply. These health and safety factors are:

the offender used real property that belongs to a third party to commit the offence;
■the production constituted a potential security, health or safety hazard to persons under the age of 18 years who were in the location where the offence was committed or in the immediate area;
■the production constituted a potential public safety hazard in a residential area; or
■the accused placed or set a trap that is likely to cause death or bodily harm to another person in the location where the offence was committed.

If the substance produced is one listed in Schedule II, other than cannabis (marihuana), new section 7(2)(a.1) imposes a mandatory minimum punishment of imprisonment for one year if the production is for the purpose of trafficking, or for a term of 18 months if the production is for the purpose of trafficking and any of the health and safety factors listed above apply. If the subject matter of the production offence is cannabis (marihuana), subsection 7(2)(b) will double the maximum possible term of imprisonment from 7 to 14 years.

Mandatory minimum punishments will also be introduced for the production of cannabis (marihuana), with their length depending upon the number of marihuana plants produced. The term of imprisonment will be at least six months if the number of plants produced is more than 5(61) and fewer than 201 and the production is for the purpose of trafficking. The minimum penalty increases to nine months where the number of plants produced is fewer than 201, the production is for the purpose of trafficking, and any of the health and safety factors also apply. If the number of plants produced is more than 200 and fewer than 501, the minimum term of imprisonment is one year, which increases to 18 months if any of the health and safety factors apply. The minimum term of imprisonment will be two years if the number of plants produced is more than 500, which will increase to three years if any of the health and safety factors apply. There is no mention of the production being for the purposes of trafficking when the number of plants is more than 200.

You can read more about this bill at: The summary includes some things about the debate over mandatory minimum sentences, and yet it also refers to the establishment of Drug Treatment Courts.

Don't rely on any of this as legal advice. I'm not a lawyer and am only skimming the surface in looking at this bill.

All of the bill except sections 10 and 11 are apparently awaiting a date announcement about when they go into force. [There is no description of any section 10 or 11 in the legislative summary, so perhaps they are sections expunged in previous revisions].

There was one section of the summary that suggested that growers of medical marijuana are being limited by law to growing only enough for themselves and one other patient. Here's that section:

In addition, the Marihuana Medical Access Regulations(23) allow for authorizations to possess marihuana to be issued to those persons who can prove a medical need for it. A holder of a personal-use production licence is also authorized to produce and keep marihuana for the medical purpose of the holder.(24) A specific limitation on the lawful source of supply of dried marihuana was declared invalid as contrary to section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 2008.(25) The one-grower-to-one-user ratio was held to unjustifiably limit the ability of authorized persons to access their marihuana for medical purposes. This decision was confirmed by the Federal Court of Appeal.(26) In response, the government published in the Canada Gazette on 27 May 2009 Regulations Amending the Marihuana Medical Access Regulations.(27) These proposed changes will double the current ratio, making it one grower to two users. The explanation accompanying the proposed amendments states that a full review of the access to medical marihuana is required given that the program was never intended to facilitate the widespread, potentially large-scale production of marihuana for medical purposes.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

New Mt. Pleasant Library Now Open

After some delay past the announced date, the new Mt. Pleasant Branch libary at the new Mt. Pleasant Community Centre is finally open. The address is 1 Kingsway. Here's the web page that has the hours, buses that stop there, etc., on it.

Unlike when the branch was in Kingsgate Mall, it's now going to be open 7 days a week, 9-9. except 9-6 on Sunday. However, it will be closed Dec. 24-26, New Year's Eve, and New Year's Day.

After a few trips just looking into the windows(including on the announced opening date when it didn't actually open), I finally went inside.

It seemed to me quite an oddly shaped space and a pretty tight fit to maneuver in some areas. The entranceway is narrow and the checkout desk is right by the door. This would theoretically allow the librarian there to stop anyone who set off the alarm at the entranceway, but I noticed that with long lines and only one checkout clerk they didn't actually have enough staff behind the desk to enforce that.

There are a LOT of computer terminals there, in more than one room, and most of them were busy when I went, not just with people looking up books but also doing other kinds of communication.

I suspect it may not actually have more shelf space than the original Mt. Pleasant Library in Kingsgate Mall had - but of course it has more shelves than the temporary, transitional library in the mall (except paperback racks, which seem to be fewer and are also way in the back). They also don't yet have any racks of used books for sale there. I had brought a bagful of paperbacks to donate, so I hope they will be able to put them out soon.

One of the aunties thought it very convenient that there is a display of new books and fast reads face-out just at the entrance. The face-out shelves should help them make the most of the few new books they can afford in this era of library cuts.

One of the strangest things in this library is a gas-burning fake fireplace, in the back where there are also a few comfortable chairs for sitting in to read. Although the fireplace is completely enclosed in glass, seeing actual flames in a room full of paper seems a bit disturbing.

There are a lot of large windows in the library, but one of the aunties commented she thought it seemed rather dark inside. It will be even darker after the multi-storey condo developments planned for the surrounding properties go up.

The landscaping around the outside is not finished yet. One of the aunties commented that the city must have spent several thousand dollars apiece for the tall trees with root-balls they bought to plant alongside. Some medium-sized trees with root-balls were left on the ground unplanted and unguarded over a weekend and we noticed they had gotten damaged by someone or something.

Despite my minor complaints, I expect to walk over there often. My next request will be for hitching posts where you can tie up your dogs while you go in.

The #99 bus now stops at Fraser

At long last, the #99 express bus to UBC is making stops at Broadway & Fraser. Previously it went straight from Clark to Main (and vice versa).

The first time I rode the 99 to that stop, last week, I commented to the bus driver that a lot of us had been trying for years to get that stop added to the route. He said that the new stop was creating havoc in the schedule, because it added three minutes to the route but the extra time had not been added in to the schedule. (One stop doesn't really take 3 minutes, but there was another new stop added to the route as well, farther west, and of course each stop occurs in each direction.)

One of the aunties raised the issue of the #99 bus not stopping at Fraser at one of the city planning consultations, where they were talking about development of the two blocks of Broadway just west of Fraser. Wanting the 99 to stop there was one suggestion everybody at the meeting strongly favoured. The planner told us that maybe getting the 99 to stop there would be the tradeoff for accepting 12-story building development along that stretch of Broadway.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Winter Homeless Shelter in Mt. Pleasant Open House Jan 13

A temporary winter homeless shelter was announced today - its opening day - in Mt. Pleasant at 677 East Broadway. It is scheduled to be open until "no later than April 2010."

The shelter will be holding an open house on January 13, from 5 to 7 pm, if you want to see inside.

The shelter is one of several being provincially funded just from now until April 2010.

City staff was ordered to issue permits "on an expedited basis."

The location is the same piece of city property where the 12-story building for homesless and "hard to house" is being planned. It's right by the westbound Broadway & Fraser bus stop where the #9, #8, and now also the #99 buses stop.

I post below the letter I received in email from city housing planner . The letter came with two attachments, but as they are in .pdf I can't post them to the blog. Email her if you want to receive them.

One attachment states that city staff has been ordered to issue permits on an expedited basis so that provincial funds can be spent for temporary winter shelters around the city. The one is Mt. Pleasant is listed as 677 East Broadway - development permit #DE413544.

Here's the letter:

The Mount Pleasant Community Planning Team wishes to advise you of the following:
The City of Vancouver and the Province of BC are working with local non-profit operators in implementing a Winter Response to provide additional shelter capacity during the winter months. All shelters will be in neighbourhoods that have been identified as having a substantial homeless population but lacking adequate shelter resources. Shelter locations may include Mount Pleasant, Kitsilano, Downtown and Grandview-Woodlands.

On December 15th, council allocated $500,000 towards the Winter Response. Together with a $1.2 million contribution from the Province, funds will be used for renovations and shelter operations. All shelters opened as part of the 2010 Winter Response will operate for the winter months, closing no later than April 30th, 2010.
The first of these shelters will open tonight in the Mount Pleasant area at 677 East Broadway. The shelter will provide space for up to 40 homeless individuals each night. The shelter will be open 24/7 and will be operated by Raincity Housing and Support Society. An Open House will take place at the shelter on Wednesday January 13th, 2010 from 5 PM - 7 PM.

Please find attached a copy of the information letter sent out to neighbours of the shelter in addition to the Operations Management Plan provided by Raincity Housing. For more information please contact me via email or phone (noted below). You can also contact the shelter operator directly, contact information is provided in the attached letter.

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Thank you,
Andrea Gillman
Andrea Gillman
Housing Planner
City of Vancouver
phone: 604-873-7542
fax: 604-871-6488