Pubdate: Mon, 07 Jul 2003
Source: Canadian Press (Canada Wire)
Copyright: 2003 The Canadian Press (CP)
Author: Alexander Panetta
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


OTTAWA (CP) - A top U.S. envoy will consult with several Canadian government
departments as he helps co-ordinate a cross-border drug crackdown to follow
Canada's controversial new marijuana law.

U.S. deputy drug czar Barry Crane arrives in Ottawa on Tuesday, when he will
reiterate American fears that more people might try carrying their stash
across the border once Canada's pot-decriminalization bill passes.

He will ask federal officials how they plan to stave off such an increase,
then take his findings to the White House.

"Our concern is not so much the legislation as its impact," said Jennifer De
Vallance, a spokeswoman for the White House drug policy office.

"Our real issue is the impact on drug trafficking into the United States.

"That's where we're concerned and we'll continue to work with the Canadian
government to make sure the United States is not adversely affected."

Crane will meet with officials from the Justice and Foreign Affairs
departments, Health Canada, the RCMP, the Solicitor-General's office, and
the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse.

In May, Justice Minister Martin Cauchon introduced legislation that would
make possession of up to 15 grams of pot a minor offence.

People nabbed with small amounts would no longer face criminal charges if
the bill becomes law, and would instead be subject to fines ranging between
$100 and $400.

Meanwhile, the government would crack down on big-time trafficking by
doubling the maximum prison term for growers - to 14 years from the current
seven - and spending $245 million over five years to beef up law enforcement
and drug prevention.

The new law has been a source of concern and consternation south of the
border, even though a handful of U.S. states already have similar laws.

The administration worries that Americans would be more likely to take drugs
back home after crossing the border, or that more Canadians would try
sneaking a few grams past customs.

American officials have also expressed concern that additional drug checks
will slow border traffic and hamper cross-border trade.

Before introducing the legislation, Cauchon went to Washington to assure
U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft that Canada would continue co-operating
in police efforts against the drug trade.

De Vallance said U.S. officials are "encouraged" that Ottawa has tempered
its lighter view of simple possession with a toughened approach to

One reason so much pot gets moved across the border is the growing
reputation of Canadian marijuana - particularly the B.C. variety.

More than three-quarters of that province's potent bud gets shipped to the
United States, said one official at the U.S. embassy in Ottawa.

Even some Liberal MPs have announced their opposition to the legislation,
leading some to speculate it could die on the order paper when Prime
Minister Jean Chretien retires months from now.

However, decriminalization has the support of all three leadership
candidates in the race to succeed Chretien.
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