A federal government proposal to lower restrictions on marijuana possession has the United States, as well as police chiefs in Alberta, Canada, up in arms.

“We are absolutely against decriminalization,” says Marshall Chalmers, police Chief of Camrose, Alberta, and president of the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police. “We believe it’s absolutely sending the wrong message.”

But despite a strong verbal attack from the head of U.S. drug policy, the Canadian government intends to continue with its plan.

Federal Health Minister Anne McLellan gave her support for federal legislation expected to decriminalize possession of marijuana in amounts less than 15 grams. But she said in order for her to back the upcoming bill, Canada should implement a new national drug strategy of education, information, and treatment.

If all goes as planned, the legislation will replace jail terms with fines of C$100 for possession of 15 grams (half an ounce) or less of pot.

John Walters, director of the White House office of National Drug Control Policy, says he fears the new legislation will adversely affect U.S. efforts to keep powerful Canadian-grown marijuana from being smuggled across the border.

“The problem now is that the high-potency marijuana business is growing uncontrollably in Canada. You’re sending us the crack equivalent of marijuana and that’s bad for both countries,” Walters told CBC television.

Chief Chalmers believes the Canadian government is making a mistake because, he says, marijuana is a gateway drug to other more addictive drugs. “I’ve been in policing 27 years, and I’ve never seen a kid go from a bottle of beer to crystal meth,” he says.

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