'Reefer madness' no reason to seize
Why is the B.C. Association of Social Workers beating
the bushes to have more children taken into care?
Association spokesman Paul Jenkinson has been stumping
the provincial media urging that the government start seizing children
found in homes with marijuana-growing operations. There's "a crisis" out
there, in his opinion, and fast action by Victoria is required.
The impetus for this sudden concern supposedly is a
gap in provincial law that leaves kids at risk. It could be filled,
apparently, if we adopted new legislation like Alberta's Drug
Endangerment Act or regulatory protocols directing social workers to
grab more kids. But the evidence is not there to support this fear or
the need for a legislative response.
I first heard Jenkinson on radio late last year, but
he has also been in other media. And it's easy to understand why.
Children across B.C., according to him, are in danger of electrocution,
fiery death, poisoning or violence because mom and dad grow pot. He
suggests it would be "conservative" to say there could be 1,000 or more
children in such situations, just in the Lower Mainland.
Oh, he likes to say it's not the small producer he's
talking about, only commercial-sized operations. But in the same breath,
he says, "you'll often find anywhere from 400 to a thousand plants in a
typical home-based grow-op."
Jenkinson insists we need new and special "protocols"
to deal with the specific problem presented by growing operations.
"You'll have the children in their bedroom," he explained to one
interviewer, "you'll have, say, some of the fertilizer being stored in a
closet. There'll be electrical running through their room, venting
running through their room. So they're exposed on a regular basis to the
He raises the spectre of grow-rips -- incidents where
criminals target a home and often violently steal the illicit crop of
marijuana -- and children witnessing mom and dad being beaten.
Jenkinson is peddling reefer madness. His suggestion
that we begin seizing more children and putting them in provincial care
would only exacerbate what is already a bad situation.
The current prohibition against marijuana is a public
policy disaster that saps resources, benefits gangsters, undermines
faith in the legal system and has failed miserably to stem the use of
illicit drugs. But more to the point, the current law already provides
all the power the ministry needs to take into care any child at risk, be
it from parents who are endangering them by growing dope or any other
I don't think there is any justification for
Jenkinson's rhetoric of emergency. Neither does Tom Christensen, the
minister of children and families. He has emphasized when pressed that
the ministry already steps in when children are found inside a growing
operation or any other dangerous situation.
If Jenkinson knows of situations where that hasn't
occurred, let him name them. If he knows of children at risk, he should
similarly step up to the plate and name names. Raising the foggy
prospect of children being hurt to make political points or to win a few
more jobs for social workers strikes me as irresponsible.
When you consider the outcomes for children who are
taken into foster care, the damage that could be done by seizing more
children is obvious.
Jenkinson seems to be scaremongering. If the social
workers' association is serious about getting involved in the debate
about marijuana policy, great, but this is not the way to go about it.
15 January 2007