Pubdate: Thu, 29 May 2003
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2003 The Toronto Star
Author: Tim Harper


Made Concerns Clear, Top Bush Official Says Canada's Sovereignty Eroded, 
Critic Charges

WASHINGTON--The Bush administration now feels Canada has taken a "more 
sober" position on marijuana and instead of threatening to slow border 
traffic, the president's drug czar is offering to help Ottawa warn of the 
dangers of pot.

John Walters, however, wouldn't say Washington's concerns caused the 
Chretien government to soften its marijuana legislation, tabled this week.

"We have tried to be helpful in private with Canadian officials and tried 
to make clear in advance what our concerns were, so there wouldn't be a 
sense that we hadn't been candid if these problems got worse," he said in 
an interview yesterday.

"We have offered to work with Canadian officials with what we have learned, 
painfully, about this topic," Walters said. "We don't want to see people 
unnecessarily put at risk or put in danger."

Solicitor-General Wayne Easter has already received U.S. data on the 
effects of tough anti-marijuana advertisements on American youth.

But an official with a national organization seeking to reform marijuana 
laws in this country called Walters an "ill-informed buffoon" who is firing 
shots at a sovereign country when he is losing his hard-line anti-marijuana 
campaign right here at home.

The Liberal bill tabled Tuesday would make penalties for possession of up 
to 15 grams of marijuana a minor offence punishable by fines similar to 
those in Ohio. In that state, possession of up to 100 grams is punishable 
by a ticket and a fine of up to $100, with no criminal record.

Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the 
Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), said he found it sad that Ottawa let 
Washington's concerns play into domestic decisions. He said he was aghast 
that Justice Minister Martin Cauchon would fly to Washington to meet U.S. 
Attorney-General John Ashcroft to brief him on the Canadian proposal before 
it was presented to MPs.

"Can you imagine the anger, the sense of outrage in this country if we had 
put a cabinet minister on a mission to have our laws reviewed by another 
nation before we have outlined it at home?

"Sadly, that shows an erosion of Canadian sovereignty."

Twelve U.S. states, along with the District of Columbia, have 
decriminalized or relaxed marijuana laws.

"This is really a lot of hullabaloo from the U.S. government over nothing," 
St. Pierre said.

"There are 100 million Americans, a third of the population, already living 
under Canadian-style laws."
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