HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Harris Chooses Booze Over Drugs
Pubdate: Tue, 27 April 1999
Source: Vancouver Sun (Canada)
Copyright: The Vancouver Sun 1999
Author: Paula Arab


TORONTO (CP) - He says he's never inhaled, but Ontario Premier Mike
Harris is opposed to decriminalizing possession of even small amounts
of marijuana. Harris, who says he's never tried pot because booze
satisfied his needs, condemned Tuesday a call by Canada's police
chiefs to decriminalize the weed.

"Normally I agree with the chiefs of police, but on this one I feel
they're throwing in the towel," Harris told a news conference.

"They have a lot of frustrations . . . with our justice system. But I
believe we shouldn't be making it easier for our children to get
drugs, but we should in fact be making it harder."

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police said last week they want
Ottawa to decriminalize simple possession of marijuana, although they
oppose legalization of the drug or any other narcotic.

But Harris, who will play the law-and-order card as he campaigns to
win a second mandate in an expected June election, says
decriminalizing pot would send the wrong message to young people.

Possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana usually results in a
summary conviction and is often dealt with through a fine.

The chiefs believe their proposal would help clear a backlog of drug
cases in the court system and allow police to concentrate on more
serious crimes.

Justice Minister Anne McLellan has said she will review the chiefs'
demand and discuss it with them at their annual meeting in August.

But Harris says it's better to rehabilitate drug users than to indulge
their habit.

"We are not for decriminalizing possession of marijuana," he said. "We
are for zero tolerance, we are for early enforcement, we are for early
diversion and rehabilitation."

Using a graffiti-marked wall behind a downtown convenience store as a
backdrop, Harris took the opportunity to tout his government's
anti-crime policies.

There are the so-called boot camps for young offenders, 1,000 new
front-line police officers pounding the pavement and Canada's first
provincewide registry of sex offenders.

While statistics show that crime rates are actually down in Ontario,
Harris says people don't feel safe in their communities.

The premier dusted off an old feud with his main political rival
Dalton McGuinty, saying the Liberal leader is "out of touch with
reality" for believing poverty is linked to crime.

Blame for criminal behaviour should always be laid at the feet of the
offender, Harris said. 
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