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Pubdate: Fri, 03 Nov 2000
Source: Toronto Sun (CN ON)
Copyright: 2000, Canoe Limited Partnership.
Address: 333 King St. E., Toronto, Ontario M5A 3X5 Canada
Fax: (416) 947-3228
Author: Tom Godrey


Feds Review Policy On Weed Smokers

To ban or not to ban pot-smoking immigrants from Canada is the heady question pondered by senior immigration brass in Ottawa.

Immigration officers abroad have written to their masters in Ottawa for advice on whether to issue visas to Canada-bound immigrants who admit in interviews they've smoked dope, according to confidential e-mails obtained by The Toronto Sun through Access to Information.

Top brass were alerted to a recent case in which an applicant abroad admitted to smoking weed every three months.  The visa officer wasn't sure whether to allow the doper and family into Canada.

The "inhale" question is part of a medical report for Canadian Immigration form all potential immigrants have to answer at embassies abroad before they're given visas to come here as immigrants.

"My colleagues are divided as to how this case should be handled," immigration medical officer Dr.  Neil Heywood told his bosses last year.  "The 'doves' feel the occasional use of recreational marijuana does not represent substance abuse.  The 'hawks' feel this disclosure requires investigation."

Officers abroad have been told applicants can be refused if they're habitual users or addicted to marijuana or other drugs.  Immigration officials, citing a 1990 U.S.  survey that said 62.6% of Americans aged 26 to 34 had smoked pot, said it would be too costly and labour intensive to probe every dope-smoking person who applied to come here.

But Alliance Party immigration critic Leon Benoit said the dope smokers can progress to hard drugs and commit crimes once here.  "These people are breaking the law," Benoit said.  "I think this is wrong and they shouldn't be allowed in."

Toronto Police said it's not a crime to admit smoking pot.  Federal immigration spokesman Martin Theriault said anyone can be refused entry if a visa officer believes they've committed an act that will be punishable in Canada with a jail sentence of 10 years or more. 

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