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Vicky Mochama: The voice of Metro News.

Ex-cops cashing in on new pot laws exposes hypocrisy of the legislation: Mochama

No one can be surprised at the rank self-interest of the police. But it should give the public pause.

Two former top cops, ex-Toronto police chief Julian Fantino, left, and ex-RCMP deputy commissioner Raf Souccar, look pretty happy about their new weed company.

Samantha Beattie / Torstar News Service Order this photo

Two former top cops, ex-Toronto police chief Julian Fantino, left, and ex-RCMP deputy commissioner Raf Souccar, look pretty happy about their new weed company.

Known for his mishandling of Veterans Affairs, corruption scandals within his constabulary and, shall we say, colourful comments on race and marijuana, former Toronto and Ontario police chief Julian Fantino is launching a pot business with a former RCMP senior leader. It has rightly been met with outcry.

It exposes not only his personal hypocrisies but also those of the pot legalization process.

A focus on criminalizing personal use of pot rather than public health concerns (i.e., accessibility to children, mental health issues) has contributed to the circumstances that make young Black and Indigenous people known to police. Along with carding, illegality of marijuana has introduced more young racialized, especially Black, people to the criminal justice system than is patently fair.

Studies show that pot is used by almost every demographic in near-equal measure, and yet, it is Black people – often young, often male – who are disproportionately punished for it. A recent analysis by the Toronto Star found that “Black people with no history of criminal convictions have been three times more likely to be arrested by Toronto police for possession of small amounts of marijuana than white people with similar backgrounds.”

That analysis covers a decade of policing activity from 2003-2013, which includes two of the five years during which Julian Fantino was Toronto police Chief.

In an interview with Reuters, Fantino said of his time as a police officer, “I just felt, depending on circumstances, I gave people lots of breaks on marijuana issues, on possession of marijuana. Not everybody I dealt with was charged – far from it.” Clearly, a large swath of Black people were not given breaks. Considering their circumstances was evidently not a message from Fantino’s office.

The Star’s analysis also includes the years during which Bill Blair was Chief of police; Blair is now the Liberal government’s point man on pot legislation, which is scheduled to pass in July 2018. He has dabbled in dog-whistle language, calling drug dealers “a gangster behind some apartment building” or “a criminal in a stairwell.”

And yet, former police members who are implicated in a system that has disproportionately jailed and fined young racialized people for drug use are the ones who are taking advantage of the coming business opportunity. The Liberal government has said it will not consider amnesty for those with marijuana-related criminal records.

No one can be surprised at the rank self-interest of the police.

But it should give the public pause. I’d question anyone’s commitment to public service who opens a pot-based business two years after saying they “completely oppose the legalization of marijuana."

Jailing the industry’s original business leaders and then profiting from their formal exclusion from the industry is a clear hypocrisy.

If people with drug convictions won’t be allowed into the marijuana industry, then perhaps neither should former police officers.

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