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Canada’s pot policy under fire from the U.S.

By Hempology | September 26, 2002

From the Globe And Mail, September 13, 2002

By Graeme Smith

DETROIT — Canada’s marijuana policy is flawed by a lack of information and outright lies, according to the highest-ranking drug official in the United States.

John Walters, director of U.S. national drug-control policy, sharply criticized Ottawa yesterday for allowing ill people to smoke pot and for considering relaxed antimarijuana laws.

Mr. Walters said at a Detroit news conference that Canada has done insufficient research, so it cannot justify liberalizing its cannabis policy.

“I asked the ministers in Canada when I was there: What do you estimate to be the level of use in Canada, and what are the trends? What do you estimate to be the level of dependency and the need for treatment and the trends?

“The answer is that they don’t know. They don’t have surveys. They do not have the data,” Mr. Walters said.

“In our view of working policy, you don’t make a major step that involves these kinds of dangers without first telling the people what the danger is, what the trends are and what the problems are.”

Mr. Walters suggested that policymakers in Canada are naive to be persuaded of marijuana’s medical benefits.

“The claim that medical marijuana is an efficacious medicine is a lie.

“It is used by people who want to legalize marijuana, cynically.”

He acknowledged that the United States is considering tighter border security — recently strengthened to handle terrorist threats — if Canada relaxes its antimarijuana laws.

“What happens in Canada as a sovereign nation — as long as it stays in Canada — is Canada’s business,” Mr. Walters said.

“The problem today is that Canadian production of high-potency marijuana in British Columbia is a major source of marijuana [in the United States] . . . and it’s spreading. Just like cocaine, shipped up from Mexico.”

Mr. Walters repeatedly said that the U.S. prohibition on marijuana is based on scientific evidence, and he attacked studies that suggest cannabis can relieve symptoms of some illnesses.

He emphasized that U.S. scientists have done more research into the effects of the drug than have their colleagues in Canada.

“We have the most powerful, successful and sophisticated medical institutions in the history of humankind.”

The news conference was Mr. Walters’s only public appearance as he meets with law-enforcement officials, government leaders and drug-prevention and treatment advocates from both sides of the border.

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