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U.S. drug czar says Canadians ashamed of PM

By Hempology | October 10, 2003

From the Globe and Mail, October 10th, 2003

By Sheldon Alberts and Janice Tibbetts

“A Joint In Other Hand” – Joking about trying marijuana not funny, John
Walters says

WASHINGTON · The White House’s drug czar lashed out yesterday at Jean
Chréien for relaxing marijuana laws and said Canadians are “ashamed”
at the Prime Minister’s recent jokes about smoking pot when he retires.

John Walters, director of National Drug Control Police Office, said Mr. Chréien
was being irresponsible when he said last week that he might try marijuana when he
leaves office next February.

Canadians “are concerned about the behaviour of their Prime Minister, joking that
he is going to use marijuana in his retirement,” Mr. Walters told the Center for
Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

“They’re ashamed.”

Canada is “the one place in the hemisphere where things are going the wrong [way] rapidly,”
he added. “It’s the only country in this hemisphere that’s become a major drug producer
instead of reducing their drug production.”

Martin Cauchon, the Justice Minister, who is shepherding the federal government’s marijuana
legislation through the House of Commons, responded that Mr. Walters should “look in his
own backyard” before criticizing Mr. Chréien.

“There are over 10 states that have in place what we call alternative penalties, so
you know, if it is not correct to move in that direction, maybe he should spend some time
talking to his own states,” Mr. Cauchon said.

Mr. Walter’s outburst followed an effort by the Prime Minister to make light of his
government’s controversial decriminalization legislation.

During an interview with the Winnipeg Free Press, Mr. Chréien said he had
never tested marijuana, but might once decriminalization is approved by Parliament.

“I don’t know what is marijuana. Perhaps I will try it when it will no longer be cirminal,”
he said. “I will have money for my fine and a joint in the other hand.”

Jim Munson, Chréien’s director of communications, declined to comment on Mr. Walter’s
claim that Canadians are ashamed of their leader.

“I am not going to get into those kind of comments. I mean, they have their point of view,
and we have our point of view,” Mr. Munson said.

The Prime Minister, while joking about his own lack of personal experienec with
marijuana, also spoke about the need to crack down on growers and dealers of pot,
Mr. Munson said.

The Prime Minister, while joking about his own lack of personal experience with marijuana,
also spoke about the need to crack down on growers and dealers of pot, Mr. Munson said.

“There was laughing but he was very serious about where this country stood on drug pushers
and on growers, and that this bill will reflect that,” he said. “But it will also reflect
the reality that a young person with a small amount would have a fine and not face a
criminal record.”

The marijuana bill was handed yesterday to a special parliamentary committee, instead of
the busy Commons justice committee, which would not be able to hold public hearings on the
controversial legislation until after Christmas.

Randy White, a Canadian Alliance MP on the special committee, said that members do not intend
to rush the bill. The Americans willb e among the witnesses who will be invited to the

“We don’t need any particular approval from Americans to do this, but we have to understand
that this is a touchy issue on the borders,” Mr. White said during a debate on the bill in

“We will be inviting the Americans here to talk to us and we want to see what their point
of view is. There is little point in developing a process in this country when we offend
everybody south of us.”

The marijuana bill proposes to decriminalize possession of 15 grams or less, so that
people would be fined from $100 to $400 instead of receiving criminal records. But it
also seeks to strengthen penalties against marijuana grow operations.

The federal government, which si under intense pressure to toughen its bill, is seriously
considering several ammendments. They are:

The Bush administration has been vocal in its opposition to Ottawa’s plans for months.

Mr. Walters, the White House’s point man in the U.S. war on drugs, delivered his
blunt critique on Canada as a part of a broader criticism of lax drug policies in
places like Europe.

Last month, he blasted Canada’s court system for being too lax in prosecuting marijuana
producers, saying “the Canadian system has developed the practice of not sentencing
people to anything approaching serious time unless they commit a violent crime.”

He added: “You can set up grows, you can ship drugs, you can be caught and very little
happens to you.”

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