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  1. Stella Blue
    Canada Re-Introduces Bill to Decriminalize Marijuana Possession

    Nov. 1 (Bloomberg) -- Canada's governing Liberal Party re- introduced a bill decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana and hashish, in contrast with harsher U.S. penalties.

    ``While cannabis use must be discouraged, possession of small amounts shouldn't result in a criminal record,'' Justice Minister Irwin Cotler said in a statement in Ottawa. Instead, adults caught with 15 grams of pot or less would pay a C$150 ($123) fine, and people under age 18 would pay C$100.

    Canada also proposed doubling the maximum jail term for running a ``large scale'' cannabis plantation to 14 years. A separate bill would also let police officers force suspected drivers to take drug-impairment tests.

    U.S. Ambassador to Canada Paul Cellucci has said decriminalizing pot possession may create delays at the border the two countries share as officials search vehicles and travelers for drugs. Canada and the U.S. are the world's largest trade partners, exchanging $1.5 billion of products daily.

    Martin needs opposition votes to pass the bill, after his Liberal Party lost its governing majority in Canada's June 28 federal election, keeping 135 of the 308 seats in the House of Commons.

    In the U.S., possession charges may lead to a minimum fine of $1,000 and a year in prison. Canada's government has compared its proposed penalties with the possession laws in countries such as Spain, Italy, Portugal, Belgium and Luxembourg.

    To contact the reporter on this story:
    Greg Quinn in Ottawa at gquinn1@bloomberg.net.

    To contact the editor responsible for this story:
    Erik Schatzker at eschatzker@bloomberg.net.

    Last Updated: November 1, 2004 16:55 EST

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