Pubdate: Thu, 15 May 2003
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2003 The Toronto Star
Author: Tonda MacCharles, Ottawa Bureau
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


U.S. Fears Canada's Strategy To Boost Smuggling  McLellan Warns Of 
Short-Term Spike In Use

OTTAWA--The U.S. officially registered its concern over marijuana "growing 
operations" and smugglers with Canada's Justice Minister Martin Cauchon at 
a private meeting in Washington, sources said yesterday.

The renewed expression of American concern comes as Cauchon delayed 
introducing the overhaul of Canada's national drug strategy for two more 
weeks, and clashed with one of his cabinet colleagues over the impact of 
decriminalizing marijuana.

Health Minister Anne McLellan warned Canada must be ready to deal with a 
possible short term "spike" in pot use and move aggressively to counter 
illegal growers of high-grade pot.

McLellan said the rise in drug use usually levels off, but a comprehensive 
health and law enforcement package must accompany decriminalization.

She echoed concerns in the United States that Canada's plan to make 
possession of less than 15 grams a minor ticketing offence may boost 
illegal growing operations of marijuana.

"I have made it very plain that until we are able to effectively deal with 
illegal 'grow ops' in this country, we have a major, major problem," 
McLellan told reporters.

Sources said that's the same message U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft 
communicated to Cauchon in a private meeting Tuesday evening.

Ashcroft told his Canadian counterpart the U.S. "absolutely" acknowledged 
Ottawa "had the right to make its own law," but disagreed with Canada's 
approach and fears a flood of high-grade pot across its borders.

Ashcroft politely but firmly indicated the U.S. is concerned that Canada 
has not adequately addressed the cross-border and law enforcement issues, 
one source said.

"There's no denying that there is concern on the American side," the source 
said. "What matters now is what we do on the penalty side" against illegal 
marijuana growing operations to shut them down."

Cauchon refused yesterday to discuss the U.S. reaction or state whether 
their concerns have been addressed, saying he did not go there to "consult" 
Ashcroft, rather to inform him of the broad outline of Canada's plan. "I 
just want to be clear," Cauchon bristled.

"As justice minister I will do what I think is good for the Canadian 

Cauchon also dismissed McLellan's view that decriminalization leads to a 
short-term rise in drug use.

McLellan said other jurisdictions that have eased sanctions for marijuana 
see levels of drug use rise then "level off" again.

She stressed it is important to have measures in place for that period when 
more people, especially youth, decide to use the drug.

"It can lead to addiction, it can lead to all sorts of situations within 
local communities and you need to be ready with information, with education 
and with treatment. And you have to be very clear about the message -- this 
is not about legalization," she said.

But Cauchon said 100,000 Canadians already use cannabis on a daily basis, 
and the coming legal changes will mean the government will do "a much 
better job" at combating the problem.

McLellan said details of funding for the over-all strategy are still being 
worked out.
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