Pubdate: Wed, 10 May 2006
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2006 The Toronto Star
Author: Betsy Powell, Crime Reporter
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Canada)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


Pleased to Be on Same Page As Harper's Tories

Critics, However, Call 'War on Drugs' Ineffective

MONTREAL--A top U.S. drug official and the U.S. Ambassador to Canada
say they're pleased to be on the same page as the new federal
government when it comes to law and order, particularly now that
Ottawa has no plans to decriminalize marijuana.

Yesterday, both U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
administrator Karen Tandy and ambassador David Wilkins addressed the
International Drug Enforcement Conference (IDEC) jointly sponsored by
the DEA and Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Some 300 high-ranking drug officials from 80 countries are attending
the three-day meeting being held in Canada for the first time in its
24-year history. Only the morning session was open to media.

Following her opening remarks, Tandy said she had "very productive
meetings" this week with cabinet ministers Vic Toews, Tony Clement and
Stockwell Day and came away "very impressed" and pleased both
countries now share a common approach relating to combating the
illegal drug trade.

"We have more opportunities to work even more closely, innovatively
and strategically than before," she told a news conference.

She later bristled when asked by a reporter about U.S. government
relations with the former Liberal government.

"I think you're misfocused on the prior government. I'm looking at the
current government," she said.

The cozier relationship doesn't mean the U.S. will try to dictate
Canadian policies, she added. Wilkins agreed. While the U.S. respects
each country's right "to make their own decisions," Washington
"strongly opposes" decriminalization of all drugs and hopes "Canada
continues to support that position," he said.

However, critics say IDEC conferences by their nature are one of the
vehicles the U.S. uses to influence the policies of governments
throughout the world. A "counter symposium" held Monday featured an
array of speakers, including former law enforcement officials, who say
after spending their careers working against drugs and believing in
prohibition, they've concluded it's a failed approach because there
are more drugs than ever.

RCMP commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli appeared to echo comments he
made day earlier to a Senate committee when he said the Mounties can't
afford to fight the majority of organized crime in Canada.

He said while progress is being made in tackling illicit drugs, there
is a "steamroller" behind the efforts, which might prompt the
question, "are we so sure we're winning?"

The statistics might suggest otherwise. Derek Ogden, the RCMP's
director general on drugs and organized crime, said an estimated $320
billion is spent annually on illicit drugs, there are some 200 million
worldwide "consumers" and that no country is free of the drug trade.

Critics say that shows how ineffective the war on drugs has

She suggested the perception that pot isn't as serious as other drugs,
like crystal meth or crack, is misguided. "Children are three times
more likely to become dependent on marijuana," she said.

RCMP deputy commissioner Pierre-Yves Bourduas said there's no such
thing as soft or hard drugs. "We're talking drugs here; it's an issue
of public health." 
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