With the Canadian government once again considering a bill that would make marijuana possession a ticketable offense, a leading American drug warrior is once again blustering against any such move. In an interview Sunday on the Canadian network CTV's Question Period, Indiana Republican US Rep. Mark Souder warned that any move toward softening Canada's marijuana laws could affect the million-dollar-a-minute trade between the two North American allies. Presumably emboldened by last week's election results, the self-confessed evangelical Christian congressman also warned Canada it could suffer the "consequences" of its liberal approach to gay marriage and marijuana.
"Canada has the right to make its own decisions, just as we do in the United States," Souder graciously conceded. But Canadians "need to think through the consequences" of those decisions. "Some of the drug policies and clearly some of the marriage policies, we have difficulty about," he told his Canadian audience.
Souder expressed particular concern about any softening of Canada's marijuana laws, warning that passage of the Liberal government's "decriminalization" bill could lead to delays in cross-border traffic. "I believe there'll be more searches at the border both coming and going from Canada, which hurts our trade," he said. "I've been very worried about the drift on marijuana policy and what that means."
Under the Liberal proposal, possession of less than 15 grams, or about half an ounce, of marijuana would punishable only by a fine. Curiously, Souder has never expressed any interest in setting up roadblocks at the border with the neighboring state of Ohio, where people can possess more than six times the amount proposed in Ottawa -- 100 grams or nearly four ounces -- and pay only a maximum $100 fine.
The link between marijuana decriminalization and marijuana trafficking is also unclear in cases of the at least 13 US states that have decriminalized marijuana possession.
Rep. Souder, who is perhaps best known in drug reform circles for authoring the Higher Education Act's anti-drug provision, has used his position as chair of the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources to unquestioningly support drug prohibition and attack drug reform.
He also tied the threat of minor marijuana law reform in Canada to the war on terror through the border security issue. Softening Canada's drug laws "won't change our longstanding trade policies, our friendships with Canada," Souder said. "But those kind of things make it difficult to think of ourselves as a North American perimeter when we don't know whether narcotics -- which increasingly funds terrorists -- are going to be more common along the border."
Souder won reelection with 71% of the vote in his conservative northeast Indiana district. But his bluster about messing with the cross-border trade may provide an opening -- according to CTV, Canada is Indiana's largest foreign trading partner.