DETROIT -- The United States is being inundated with potent marijuana from
Canada, and the problem would be exacerbated if that nation decriminalized
the drug, the U.S. drug czar said Friday.

While marijuana possession would remain illegal under the proposed Canadian
legislation, those found with about a half ounce or less would receive a
citation similar to a traffic ticket.

Some Canadian drug traffickers have used selective breeding to grow
marijuana that has up to 30 percent content of THC, the psychoactive
chemical found in marijuana, drug czar John P. Walters said. In comparison,
much of the marijuana used in the 1970s had less than 1 percent content of THC.

High-potency marijuana is more likely to cause addiction and health
problems, officials have said.

"The kind of marijuana coming from Canada is essentially the crack of
marijuana," Walters said in a news conference at a Detroit drug treatment
center. "It is dangerous. It is destructive."

A multibillion dollar industry has emerged in Canada to produce and
distribute drugs to the United States, said Walters, director of the Office
of National Drug Control Policy.

"The problem is the political leadership in Canada has been utterly unable
to come to grips with this," he said. "They're talking about
(decriminalization) while Rome burns."

The Canadian proposal would boost penalties for growing and trafficking
marijuana, noted Mike Murphy, a spokesman for Justice Minister Martin
Cauchon. He also said Canada's proposal is similar to decriminalization
laws adopted in several U.S. states.

But Murphy said Walters is exaggerating the amount of marijuana exported by
Canada and the potency of it.

"We all have to be careful about the selective use of information," he said.

Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano said the proposed decriminalization of
marijuana could create big problems for southeastern Michigan.

Tens of thousands of vehicles cross the Detroit-Windsor, Ontario border
every day. Three people were arrested in April after customs agents found
50 pounds of marijuana hidden in the trash compartment of a garbage truck.

"It's obvious that things that cross over legally over the border also have
a greater opportunity to cross over illegally," Ficano said.

Walters made his comments while in Detroit to discuss new efforts to fight
the city's drug problem. Government and police officials and community
group leaders have created four task forces to tackle the issue.

One of the task forces will design and implement after-school drug
prevention programs for children. Another will try to decrease the display
and sale of drug paraphernalia in Detroit stores. The other two will focus
on treatment and recovery and the reduction of drug trafficking.

Pubdate: Fri, 22 Aug 2003
Source: Associated Press (Wire)
Copyright: 2003 Associated Press
Author: Liz Austin, Associated Press Writer
Cited: Office of National Drug Control Policy ( )