HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html U.S. Drug Czar Calls For War On Marijuana During Visit
Pubdate: Wed, 12 Jun 2002
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 2002 Hearst Communications Inc.
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Walters, John)


QUEBEC (AP) -- Canada should get tough on marijuana instead of 
decriminalizing the drug or allowing people to use it for medicinal 
purposes, U.S. drug policy chief John Walters said Wednesday.

"Canada's decision about how it handles this or other issues of regulated 
substance is its decision. We respect that," Walters told reporters during 
a two-day visit for an international meeting of the College on Problems of 
Drug Dependence.

But he made it clear the American government disagrees with recent moves in 
Canada to liberalize drug policies.

More than 250 Canadians have federal government clearance to smoke 
marijuana for medical reasons. Canada amended drug laws last year to allow 
patients with conditions such as HIV, cancer, and multiple sclerosis to use 
marijuana legally.

Walters said there were better ways to treat patients than smoking 
marijuana. A Canadian Senate committee has expressed initial support for 
decriminalizing marijuana, with its final report due in August following 
public hearings. A preliminary report released in May said no scientific 
evidence exists that marijuana use leads to harder drugs, or that it is 
more dangerous to society than alcohol.

Canadian federal agencies spend about $326 million each year to fight drugs 
and more than 30,000 people are charged with simple possession annually, 
the preliminary report said.

If Canada follows the committee's initial recommendations, marijuana would 
still be illegal, but users would not be penalized. That would differ from 
the zero tolerance policy of the U.S. government.

Walters, the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control 
Policy, said that of the 4.3 million Americans suffering drug addiction, 65 
percent are dependent on marijuana.

Liberal drug laws in Canada would be a concern for the United States, 
Walters said.

"It certainly could become a problem if the trade is able to use our 
borders as a vehicle to enhance their effectiveness to move drugs across 
the border," he said of drug smugglers.
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