HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Pot Law Will Snarl U.S. Border, Says Envoy
Pubdate: Wed, 10 Nov 2004
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2004 Times Colonist
Author: Tom Blackwell, CanWest News Service
Bookmark: (Ashcroft, John)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


TORONTO --The United States ambassador to Canada warned Tuesday the
federal plan to decriminalize marijuana would exacerbate already dire
congestion problems at the U.S. border.

Paul Cellucci said the bill, if implemented, would leave the
impression pot is easier to obtain in Canada, which would put U.S.
Customs officers on high alert for smugglers.

The increased inspection and questioning of some people entering the
U.S. would slow up crossing points bogged down even now with security
related screening, he said during a meeting with the National Post's
editorial board.

"Why, when we're trying to take pressure off the border, would Canada
pass a law that would put pressure on the border?" he asked.

"If people think it's easier to get marijuana in Canada, then our
people at the border are going to be on the lookout and I think they
will stop more vehicles, particularly vehicles driven by young people,
whether they're citizens of Canada or the United States."

Cellucci earlier noted that roads and other infrastructure around the
busy Ontario crossings at Windsor and Niagara Falls must be upgraded
to ensure smooth flow of traffic.

Current projections would call for such work to be complete by 2013.
"We'll be at gridlock long before then," he said.

But the ambassador otherwise painted a positive picture of relations
between the two countries. Differences over social issues such as
same-sex marriage, and the desire of many Canadians that President
George Bush be defeated in last week's election will not undermine the
solid ties, he said.

"Canada is a little more liberal than the United States. The United
States is a little more conservative," he said. "We shouldn't be
surprised that a majority of Canadians supported the liberal, as
opposed to the conservative."

Justice Minister Irwin Cotler re-introduced legislation last week that
would both make it possible to prosecute possession of marijuana as a
non-criminal offence, while stiffening punishment for running grow

Federal officials noted that some American states have already
decriminalized simple marijuana possession, a fact acknowledged by

"We're following the lead of some of the American states," said
Marlene Jennings, the Liberals' parliamentary secretary on Canada-U.S.

"Law enforcement is very supportive of this. They have taken the
position that a lot of resources are spent on charging and prosecuting
people in possession of small amounts, when those resources would be
better used going after grow ops or going after dealers."

The Canadian law had been discussed in detail with U.S. Attorney
General John Ashcroft until he announced his resignation Tuesday, and
Tom Ridge, chief of homeland security, said Mylene Dupere, a
spokeswoman for Cotler.

"Both expressed a full understanding of the law," she said.

Meanwhile, Canada is as committed as the United States to improving
traffic flow across the border, she said.

Alex Swann, a spokesman for Public Safety Minister Anne McLellan
questioned the suggestion the law could put more drugs on the street,
noting the government is going to crack down on grow ops, and that
even possession will still be illegal. A recent assessment of
cross-border drug movement estimated that only two per cent of
marijuana heading into the United States was Canadian grown, he added. 
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