CAN: Cellucci blowing smoke on Marijuana

11-15-2004 | Toronto Star

On most issues affecting the U.S. and Canada, Paul Cellucci is a model of common sense. Despite our differences over things like same-sex marriage and lumber, he says, what sets us apart is only that "Canada is a little more liberal than the United States; the United States is a little more conservative."

But turn to the subject of Marijuana, and the outgoing U.S. ambassador loses his logical composure. He also comes perilously close to interfering in the way we conduct our domestic affairs.

"Why, when we're trying to take pressure off the border, would Canada pass a law that would put pressure on the border?" Cellucci asked last week.

Translation: If we persist in making possession of a minuscule amount of pot no longer a crime, Canadian tourists and exporters are going to face even longer delays at the border.

The ambassador predicts U.S. border authorities will be stopping more vehicles, especially if they're being driven by young people — young people, apparently, are automatically suspected of drug-smuggling.

His excellency points out that U.S. customs, immigration and security officials already have their hands full at border crossings trying to keep prospective terrorists out.

In that case, why would they divert all this extra attention suddenly to the already thriving cross-border trade in Marijuana?

Just because Parliament has decided treating kids like criminals for passing around a joint at a party doesn't really do much to stop drug trafficking either here or in the U.S.

There's an element of kettle as well as pot to all of this. About a dozen U.S. states, including California and New York, have removed criminal sanctions from Marijuana possession and there's little evidence of border slowdowns between those that have and those that haven't.

Under our proposed law, criminal sanctions would still apply for anyone caught with more than 15 grams of pot. In most U.S. states that have adopted some measure of decriminalization, people are still be able to get off with fines for having up to 28.35 grams.

Besides New York and Ohio, other states bordering Canada that have eased pot laws more than we're about to do include Minnesota, Maine and Alaska where the lowest penalties are imposed for possession of up to 226 grams. It's a wonder we haven't put delays on Americans at our borders to keep the potheads out — but, of course, we don't have the resources.

In the land of the free, U.S. presidents can't bully the states into their own conservative agendas.

That's what makes the attempts of a U.S. ambassador to bully a bordering nation out of its more liberal policies so much more outrageous.

Kindly butt out, Mr. Ambassador.


This is an edited excerpt of an editorial from the Times Colonist, Victoria, B.C.