Pubdate: Tue, 19 Aug 2003
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2003, The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Brian Laghi
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


OTTAWA -- A group of back-bench Liberals privately tried to enlist the U.S.
deputy drug czar last month to help stop federal plans to decriminalize
marijuana, a memo from a Canadian official in the meeting says.

The memo, which comes out of a July 8 gathering in Ottawa with Dr. Barry Crane
and other U.S. officials, says the MPs expressed deep concern about the bill
and wanted the United States to stop it. In interviews yesterday, MPs who were
there denied the suggestions.

According to minutes of the meeting, a written copy of which was seen by The
Globe and Mail, one of the MPs said the U.S. drug officials could help halt the
bill by warning Canada about potential difficulties at the border and with
trade if it were passed.

Another MP was quoted as saying that Dr. Crane and his officials should return
to Washington to tell their superiors that they should make the consequences of
passing the legislation clear to Canada.

The meeting took place at the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa.

"All attendees were highly critical of the proposed cannabis reform bill," said
the memo, whose author's name is blocked out.

"The apparent aim of the members of the meeting was to solicit the help of U.S.
officials to defeat the cannabis reform bill. Members expressed many
now-familiar concerns with the proposal (no provision for repeat offenders,
sends the wrong message, lack of driving test, etc.)."

The memo says that MP Dan McTeague, who helped organize the effort, told Dr.
Crane to tell his boss "that he needed to be clear with Canada about the
consequences of this action. This view was particularly expressed by [MP
Brenda] Chamberlain, who appeared to suggest that U.S. officials needed to tie
trade and border issues to this bill in order to defeat it."

The director of Dr. Crane's office is John Walters.

The memo said that Mr. McTeague conveyed "the obvious implication that the only
thing that would stop it was U.S. influence."

Mr. McTeague also gave the U.S. officials a written memo that catalogued
inadequacies in the bill, the memo said.

A Canadian Foreign Affairs official who attended the meeting made the notes, a
source who would not give the person's name said.

The memo said that two Foreign Affairs officials were at the meeting at the
beginning, but that Mr. McTeague asked one to leave and appeared to be unaware
of the second.

Mr. McTeague, who has deep difficulties with the proposal, confirmed that some
concern was expressed at the meeting, but said its main goal was to exchange
views on the bill.

"It think the [meeting] was very productive. It talked very abundantly and very
openly about the limitations as enforcement currently exists. We talked about
the amount [of marijuana] that would be generated -- given the minister's own
admission there would be an increase in its use -- and that the THC level of
the product coming come from Canada, that this was having an impact." (THC,
tetrahydrocannabinol, is marijuana's active ingredient.)

Mr. McTeague denied saying that Dr. Crane should tell his bosses about the
consequences of passing the bill.

"That doesn't sound right. I don't know who wrote that," he said. "I wouldn't
have to say something like that, I've been very clear as to what I believe are
the concerns." He called the notes "nonsense."

"The frank reality is that members of Parliament -- several members of
Parliament -- have a keen interest in this issue. . . . The last thing that I
want to do is to have a situation which goes from bad to worse, such that it
would see the tightening of the borders."

Mr. McTeague did acknowledge asking one of the Foreign Affairs officials to
leave, saying the meeting was for MPs only.

MP Roger Gallaway, who was also at the meeting, said he didn't recall Mr.
McTeague making the statements that the memo attributes to him, nor did anyone
else say anything controversial.

He said the presence of a Foreign Affairs official likely would have
constrained MPs.

He also said that if Ms. Chamberlain uttered anything akin to the remarks that
appeared in the memo, it was in an aside to her MP colleagues and to the U.S.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Doc-Hawk