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Martin plans to revive pot law

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EDMONTON -- The federal government's marijuana decriminalization bill is
coming back to the Commons in 2004 -- and the U.S. ambassador is already
warning of reduced border access for Canadian trade and travel. Martin
spokesman Brian Guest said yesterday the prime minister-to-be backs ending
criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of pot and plans to give
MPs a free vote on the issue after Parliament resumes next month.


But decriminalization has divided the Grit caucus, and a free vote might
defeat the bill.

And while U.S. Ambassador Paul Cellucci acknowledged yesterday Canada has
the right to set its own drug policy, he warned Ottawa could be setting the
stage for a border crackdown if the bill makes it easier to get weed here.

"Our concern is the perception of this is that this is a weakening of the
law ... that it will be easier to get marijuana in Canada," he said.

"Our customs and immigration officers, they're law-enforcement officers. If
they think it's easier to get marijuana in Canada, they're going to be on
the lookout."

Cellucci insists decriminalization won't affect diplomatic relations between
Ottawa and Washington.

"This is a legitimate public policy decision for Canada to make."

The bill's return might surprise a few Martin supporters. Many backbenchers
believed Martin would let it die.

Pubdate: Wednesday, December 10, 2003
Source: Toronto Sun (CN ON)
Contact: editor@sunpub.com
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