CANUCK MARIJUANA LAW MAY CLOG BORDER
OTTAWA (CP) -- Younger people trying to enter the United States will become
targets of increased surveillance unless Canada can dispel the perception
that it is slackening penalties for pot use, U.S. Ambassador Paul Cellucci
That perception might be eradicated if Canada's pending marijuana
legislation includes criminal penalties for more than one conviction, for
possession near schools or possession while operating a vehicle, Cellucci said.
"We understand that this is a public policy decision for Canada to make
just like (some U.S.) states have made," he told The Canadian Press in an
interview. "We're just saying that right now the perception is that it's
going to be a lot easier to get marijuana in Canada and that's going to put
pressure on the border."
That strain won't slow border traffic and trade to a crawl, but it will
have an impact on border crossings and on those crossing into the United
States. Younger people travelling south will be prime targets of heightened
surveillance, Cellucci said.
"If the perception is that it's easier to get marijuana in Canada, that's
going to put pressure on the border as particularly young people drive into
the United States, whether they're U.S. citizens or Canadian citizens.
Customs and Immigration officers at the border are law enforcement
officers. Their antennae will be up looking for those trying to bring these
drugs into the United States."
Prime Minister Paul Martin has said that his government will reintroduce
legislation drafted by his predecessor, Jean Chretien, that decriminalizes
penalties for possession of up to 15 grams of marijuana. What remains
unclear is whether the bill will be brought back in its original form or
whether it will be amended to toughen its penalties provisions.
The legislation mandates a maximum fine of $400 for adults and $250 for
youth for possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana - about 20 joints.
Fines for possession would increase for intoxicated drivers. But there are
currently no provisions to make repeat offenders, drivers and those
possessing the drug near schools criminally responsible. That's affecting
the perception of the proposed bill among Bush administration officials,