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LIBERAL MP DISMISSES U.S. VIEWS ON POT

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    Posted: 24 October 2003 at 15:10
Canada
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OTTAWA -- The head of a special parliamentary committee examining Canada's legislation to decriminalize marijuana said yesterday she has no interest in inviting top U.S.  drug official John Walters to testify at hearings into the controversial bill. 

"I'd rather hear from our top executives on drug situations," said Liberal MP Paddy Torsney, in the latest volley of political pot shots over Ottawa's plans to relax marijuana laws. 

"Different countries have different laws.  There are other places that have moved to some form of decriminalization so his ideas for his country are very interesting," she said.  "But we make our own decisions and our laws are for Canadians and others who come to Canada and break the law."

The all-party committee -- appointed by Parliament to fast-track a bill that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana by issuing tickets and fining offenders -- is divided on whether or not U.S.  officials should appear before the hearing.  The committee starts selecting witnesses tomorrow. 

Last week, the White House's drug czar, Mr.  Walters, slammed Canada for relaxing drug policies and criticized Prime Minister Jean Chretien, who has suggested he may try marijuana when he retires. 

"That's too damned bad what she thinks," said Canadian Alliance MP and vice-chair of the committee Randy White, of Ms.  Torsney.  "Quite frankly, the Americans have a stake in this.  They might be narrow-minded enough to think not but they do.  "

He wants U.S.  officials to attend the hearing to testify about the American position on the bill and to detail any possible recriminations regarding trade or security along the world's longest undefended border. 

"They better wise up.  This isn't just some kind of legacy the Prime Minister is leaving by here for the rest of us to live by .  .  .  we're going to talk to Americans by hook or by crook."

Mr.  White said the committee has been stacked with government supporters to get the bill through Parliament this fall.  "They've been told to rush this thing through and to hell with everybody else."

NDP MP and committee member Libby Davies accused the committee's Alliance members of using the border debate to prevent the bill from passing before the fall session is expected to end next month. 

"Clearly, the Alliance is putting this forward as a stalling tactic," she said.  "They don't want this bill to go anywhere."

Ms.  Davies said it's more important for the committee to hear from Canadian witnesses, including the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs, drug policy officials and experts on issues such as measuring marijuana intoxication. 
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