Mayor fears le­gal pot will cre­ate bor­der woes

Windsor Star - - FRONT PAGE - DAVE BATTAGELLO

Mayor Drew Dilkens is call­ing for a pro­gram to ed­u­cate U.S. vis­i­tors once cannabis is le­gal­ized in Canada, out of con­cern there could be fur­ther de­lays at the Wind­sorDetroit bor­der if trav­ellers don’t know what’s al­lowed in each of the two coun­tries.

Speak­ing to a Sen­ate com­mit­tee study­ing the im­pli­ca­tions of the pro­posed Cannabis Act (Bill C-45), Dilkens said vis­i­tors from Michi­gan could flood into Wind­sor once recre­ational mar­i­juana is le­gal­ized. Many will at­tempt to carry it back into the U.S., and that could cause de­lays dur­ing U.S. Cus­toms in­spec­tions, lead­ing to greater grid­lock.

“We have reg­u­lar (traf­fic) back­ups on both sides al­ready,” Dilkens told the com­mit­tee. “Any­thing that adds an­other layer of thick­en­ing at our bor­der will have a detri­men­tal ef­fect.”

The Sen­ate Com­mit­tee on Na­tional Se­cu­rity and De­fence heard tes­ti­mony Mon­day on bor­der im­pacts once mar­i­juana is le­gal­ized in Canada. Dilkens was among three wit­nesses pro­vid­ing tes­ti­mony and answering com­mit­tee ques­tions.

Dilkens said fur­ther de­lays at a bor­der that deals with reg­u­lar back­ups now will cre­ate a rip­ple ef­fect for 7,000 Wind­sor com­muters who cross daily into Michi­gan, plus up to 8,000 trucks a day at­tempt­ing to cross into the U.S. Ed­u­ca­tion from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment is “para­mount” so Amer­i­cans get the mes­sage that rules are vastly dif­fer­ent on each side of the bor­der, Dilkens said.

“We need a sig­nif­i­cant amount of ed­u­ca­tion to in­form the trav­el­ling pub­lic on what they can and can­not do.”

Dilkens is also con­cerned U.S. bor­der agents will deny en­try to Cana­dian trav­ellers who ad­mit to us­ing mar­i­juana at home. “These are peo­ple who may do some­thing le­gal here, but then have to con­tem­plate ly­ing to (a U.S.) bor­der of­fi­cer or risk be­ing de­nied en­try into their coun­try, maybe per­ma­nently,” Dilkens said.

“You don’t want to be in a sit­u­a­tion where you are jeop­ar­diz­ing some­one’s fu­ture.”

The mayor said he hopes the fed­eral gov­ern­ment will “take the ini­tia­tive and do what­ever they can at ports of en­try ahead of time to ad­dress these is­sues.”

Jonathan Black­ham, di­rec­tor of pol­icy and pub­lic af­fairs for the Cana­dian Truck­ing Alliance, told the com­mit­tee that roughly 11 mil­lion trucks per year — or one ev­ery four sec­onds — cross the Canada-U. S. bor­der. Forty per cent of Canada’s gross do­mes­tic prod­uct re­lies on that trade.

He noted rules are al­ready strict for driv­ers re­gard­ing mar­i­juana and al­co­hol use. But he em­pha­sized the in­tro­duc­tion of le­gal­ized mar­i­juana in Canada must not have any im­pact on mov­ing goods across the bor­der by cre­at­ing greater back­ups at U.S. Cus­toms.

“We need to make sure the Cana­dian truck­ing in­dus­try is pro­tected,” Black­ham said. “That all con­ver­sa­tions that need to take place, do take place. “Any­thing that has a neg­a­tive im­pact on ac­cess to U.S. mar­kets will have huge con­se­quences to the

Cana­dian econ­omy.”

A le­gal ex­pert from the state of Wash­ing­ton said he’s al­ready en­coun­tered mar­i­juana-re­lated is­sues at the Canada-U. S. bor­der be­tween his state and Bri­tish Columbia. Scott Rail­ton, an at­tor­ney with Cas­ca­dia Cross-Bor­der Law, said med­i­cal and/or recre­ational mar­i­juana is le­gal in nearly 30 states, but re­mains il­le­gal fed­er­ally in the U.S.

That means U.S. Cus­toms of­fi­cers are left scrambling over how to ad­dress bor­der trav­ellers car­ry­ing mar­i­juana and they sim­ply fall back to fed­eral leg­is­la­tion, which in most cases treats mar­i­juana the same as co­caine and heroin. “U.S. Cus­toms is short on guid­ance for its of­fi­cers . ... Bor­der cross­ing has def­i­nitely got tougher and has thick­ened. There is a greater need for ed­u­ca­tion on bor­der clear­ance is­sues,”Rail­ton said.

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