After 35 years of stuffing prisons with minor drug felons, state legislators have judged the law's mandatory sentencing provisions as expensive and ineffective.So why is Canada starting to bringing in these very same "expensive and ineffective" policies?
It's part of a reassessment of "tough on crime and sentencing" laws taking place across the United States, which has the highest incarceration rate in the developed world. Canada, ironically, is bucking that trend.
"Canadian policy-makers have picked up the cudgel of minimum mandatory sentences at the same time as Americans are trying to extricate themselves from them because they have proven to be so destructive," says Craig Jones, director of the John Howard Society, which reintegrates inmates in the community.
Canada's Conservative government last year increased the minimum prison time judges must impose for gun crimes. Last month, it reintroduced a bill that imposed minimum sentences for a long list of drug crimes. It includes a six-month sentence for someone caught growing even one marijuana plant for trafficking.Micheal Cust wrote some time ago about the fact that tougher enforcement of prohibition may actually lead to more violence in the drug war. At a time of national reassessment of a failed experiment in drug policy in the United States, it's baffling to see our government shutting its eyes, plugging its ears and shouting "tough on crime!" to convince Canadians it's doing something to make them safer.
The toughest minimum sentence under the proposed drug law is three years for anyone creating a public safety hazard in a residential area by producing Schedule 1 drugs – such as cocaine, heroine or methamphetamine.
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Cross-posted to The Shotgun.