Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Author: Petti Fong, Vancouver Sun
Published: Saturday, January 31, 2004
Copyright: 2004 Vancouver Sun
Contact: [email protected]
People convicted of growing marijuana will be required to prove their assets were not purchased with money from drug sales, under new legislation the provincial government plans to bring in this year.
Solicitor-general Rich Coleman said Friday the province will pursue drug dealers through tax fraud.
"Remember that Al Capone didn't go to jail for the crimes he committed, he went to jail for tax evasion," Coleman said. "There are tax laws in this country that would enable us to do this. I think we just need to find the same commitment."
The new legislation will put a reverse onus on convicted drug dealers to show homes, cars and other assets they possess were not purchased with money from the sale of marijuana.
"If you can't get them criminally, get them in the pocketbooks," Coleman said.
While the new legislation hasn't been completed, Coleman said it will be patterned on current legislation that allows the provincial government to audit businesses to make sure they are collecting sales tax properly.
Under that legislation, the onus is on business owners to prove they are not guilty and provide six years worth of statements to back their defence.
In a speech to the Vancouver Board of Trade, Coleman said the proposed legislation is just one way the provincial government is trying to crack down on the marijuana drug trade.
The business community must also lobby the federal government to continue its plans to double the penalty for convicted growing operators, he said.
"The message has to be that it's time to reflect the principles of our communities,and it's time for you to work with us to get the penalties we need to fight back against crime in British Columbia," Coleman said to enthusiastic applause.
Stiffer penalties will hurt the marijuana trade in B.C. because it will create more parity with the American system, according to Coleman, who pointed out a first-time offender in Washington State gets an automatic jail sentence. In comparison, 82 per cent of people charged with marijuana growing operations in B.C. do no jail time.
Meanwhile, Coleman said tougher penalties for impaired drivers who receive a 24-hour roadside suspension are being considered by the provincial government.
However, he denied an online report that the province is planning to decriminalize impaired driving, as proposed by law-enforcement officials in a discussion paper.
"Our justice partners had some interest in us putting it in there for discussion, but our input tells us we won't do that," he said. "It's out there for discussion only."
Coleman said the majority of people involved in the discussion support tougher penalties for people who drink and drive.
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