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U.S. doesn’t set our drug policies

By Hempology | December 25, 2002

From the TIMES COLONIST, December 14, 2002

Editorial by Andrew Phillips

If Canada chooses to relax its pot laws, that’s no business of the American drug czar

The czar of anti-drug enforcement in the U.S. told us Thursday that we in Canada shouldn’t lower the
penalties for possession of pot because marijuana is bad for us, especially if we’re thinking of
crossing the border.

Just to make sure we heard him, John Walters came all the way from Washington to Buffalo to deliver his
message, just as a committee of MP’s was recommending tha tpeople who possess or cultivate less than 30
grams of pot should not face criminal prosecution, but a fine.

Walters, the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Police, should have saved himself
the trip. How we deal with drugs or any other domestic issue is up to us, not the White House. The laws we
pass apply to our citizens, and how they are perceived in the U.S. or anywhere else has nothing to do with it.

Canadian officials have gone out of their way to be nice to their American counterparts, especially in dealing
with cross-border traffic and crime prevention. Only this week, just as Walters was shuffling up to Buffalo,
Canadian and American law enforcement agencies were putting the finishing touches on an agreement to allow
police in both countries instant access to one another’s criminal data bases.

Since that Sept. 11, we’ve co-operated closely with our neighbours’ anti-terrorism efforts. We’ve said
we understand the need for better vilgilance on our common border. We’ve agreed to combine military
forces when the next terrorist attack comes, either here or there.

Walters was way out of line to lecture us about the evils of marijuana – “it’s bad for people in Canada and
the consumption and dependence problems it creates” – because we know it’s a problem, if not of the scale
as seen from the White House.

Walters also said decriminalization in Canada “makes security at the border tougher because this is a
dangerous threat to our young people.” He’s wrong there, too.

The changes we’re making don’t apply to large grow operations, 95 per cent of them, say the RCMP,
producing for the U.S. market. They apply only to marijuana grown for personal consumption, and if anyone
is silly enough to cross the border with a few joints of it, they deserve what they get.

That doesn’t mean we should continue to be so lackadaisical in arresting and punishing the growers
and traffickers that Walters has reason to be concerned about. National figures for 1999-2000 provided
by the Statistics Canada show that only one quarter of those caught trafficking in, growing or importing
marijuana were charged. One fifth of those caught with marijuana in their possession were charged.

The average sentence for drug trafficking was less than three months: the sentence for simple
possession was no more than 15 days. Only one per cent of those charged with trafficking in 2000
ended up in federal penitentiary.

Walters would like to deal more harshly with the traffickers and big-time growers, and we should.
But we’re dealing with out recreational pot-smokers the way we think is appropriate, and Walters should
butt out.

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