Cauchon heads to D.C. to explain new pot law News Staff
Updated: Tue. May. 13 2003 6:36 AM ET

Before introducing his new bill to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana in the house, Justice Minister Martin Cauchon will head to Washington to explain the matter to U.S. officials.

Cauchon will present his controversial plan to U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft on Tuesday, Canadian officials said Monday.

The bill could be introduced in the house later this week, but before that happens, Cauchon wants to explain what it means to his U.S. counterpart. He is expected to stress to Ashcroft that marijuana will remain illegal.

Cauchon also wants to outline plans for stricter penalties for commercial marijuana-growing operations.

Washington has expressed concerns about Canada's plans for marijuana laws. Earlier this month, John Walters, director of the White House office of National Drug Control Policy, said the Liberal government's plans to decriminalize pot possession would increase crime and would therefore pose a threat to U.S. citizens.

"We have to be concerned about American citizens... when you make the penalties minimal you get more drug use, you get more drug addiction, you get more drug production, you get more drug crime," he told CTV News.

Here in Canada, police remain opposed to Ottawa's plans.

Mike Niebudek, the vice-president of the Canadian Police Association, told CTV's Canada AM they are "staunchly against" any sort of ticketing system for marijuana possession, rather than criminal charges.

"So far as the legislation is concerned, we're satisfied with what's in the book right now to do the job," Niebudek said.

He said that there are certain cases in which he believes criminal charges are necessary. He cited examples such as a father who smokes marijuana in front of his children, or kids who bring drugs to school.

"I think what's important as well is that we send a clear message to our youth out there, to the children, that smoking marijuana, especially the grade of marijuana in 2003, which is completely different from what was on the market 20-25 years ago, is very dangerous," Niebudek said.

He told Canada AM that instead of focusing on the decriminalization of marijuana, Ottawa should establish a national drug strategy "that will address issues such as education, prevention and treatment."

Canadian Alliance MP Randy White made similar comments on CTV's Question Period on Sunday.

"This Liberal government has no national drug strategy. If we're going to decriminalize marijuana ... let's have a national strategy and deal with marijuana, heroine, crack and so on," White said.

"It's not as simple as just decriminalizing. I want to see what the bill is. I want to see how much the limit is. I want to see what the fines are. I want to see how they're going to collect them because that certainly is a problem," added White.

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