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    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,
    Cellucci said.


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