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MPs sought U.S. help to derail pot bill

By Hempology | August 20, 2003

Liberal foes of legislation asked official to take concerns back to Washington

From The Globe and Mail, August 19, 2003

By Brian Laghi, Ottawa

A group of back-bench Liberals privately tried to enlist the U.S. deputy drug czar
last month to help stop federal plans to decriminalzie marijuna, a memo from a
Canadian official in the meeting says.

The memo, which comes out of a July 8 gathering in Ottawa with Dr. Barry Crane and other
U.S. officials, says the MPs expressed deep concern about the bill and wanted the United
States to stop it. In interviews yesterday, MPs who were there denied the suggestions.

According to minutes of the meeting, a written copy of which was seen by The Globe and
Mail, one of the MPs said the U.S. drug officials could help halt the bill by warning
Canada about potential difficulties at the border and with trade if it were passed.
Another MP was quited as saying that Dr. Crane and his officals should return to Washington
to tell their superiors that they should make the consequences of passing the bill
clear to Canada. The meeting took place at the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa.

“All attendees were highly critical of the proposed cannabis reform bill,” said the memo,
whose author’s name is blocked out.

“The apparent aim of the members of the meeting was to solicit the help of U.S. officials
to defeat the cannabis reform bill. Members expressed many now-familiar concerns with the
proposal (no provision for repeat offenders, sends the wrong message, lack of driving test,

The memo says that MP Dan McTeague, who helped organize the effort, told Dr. Crane to tell
his boss “that he needed to be clear with Canada about the consequences of this action.
This view was particularly expressed by [MP Brenda] Chamberlain, who appeared to suggest
that U.S. officials needed to tie trade and border issues to this bill in order to
defeat it.” The director of Dr. Crane’s office is John Walters.

The memo said Mr. McTeague conveyed “the obvious implication that the only thing that
would stop it was U.S. influence.” Mr. McTeague also gave the U.S. officials a written memo
that catalogued inadequacies in the bill, the memo said.

A Canadian Foregign Affairs official who attended the meeting made the notes, a source
who would not give the persons name said. The memo said that two Foreign Affairs
officials were there at the beginning, but that Mr. McTeague asked one to leave and
appeared to be unaware of the second.

Mr. McTeague, who has deep difficulties with the proposal, confirmed that some concern
was expressed at the meeting, but said its main goal was to exchange views on the bill.

“It think the [meeting] was very productive. It talked very abundantly and very openly
about the limitations as enforcement currently exists. We talked about the amount [of
marijuana] that would be generated – given the minister’s own admission there would be
an increase in its use – and that the THC level of the product coming come from Canada,
that this was having an impact.” (THE, tetrahydrocannabinol, is marijuana’s active

Mr. McTeague denied saying that Dr. Crane should tell his bosses about the consequnces
of passing the bill. “That doesn’t sound right. I don’t know who wrote that,” he said. “I
wouldn’t have to say something like that, I’ve been very clear as to what I believe are
the concerns.” He called the notes “nonsense.”

“The frank reality is that members of Parliament – several members of Parliament – have a
keen interest in this issue… The last thing that I want to do is to have a situation which
goes from bad to worse, such that it would see the tightening of the borders.”

Mr. McTeague did acknowledge asking one of the Foreign Affairs officials to leave, saying
the meeting was for MPs only.

MP Roger Gallaway, who was also at the meeting, said he didn’t recall Mr. McTeague making
the statements that the memo attributes to him, nor did anyone else say anything

He said the presence of a Foreign Affairs official likely would have constrained MPs.

He also said that if Ms. Chamberlain uttered anything akin to the remarks that appeared in
the memo, it was in an aside to her MP colleagues and to the U.S. officials.

Ms. Chamberlain was not available for comment yesterday. Mr. Gallaway said others
at the meeting included MPs Janko Peric and Judi Longfield, and Senator Anne Cools. MPs
Joe Comuzzi and Allan Tonks were invited, but could not attend.

Reporters were not informed of the meeting, although officials with the Solicitor-General’s
Office knew about it.

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