Border crime may increase with Canadian marijuana law

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(Host) Public Safety Commissioner Kerry Sleeper says he’s very concerned that the decriminalization of marijuana in Canada will lead to a significant increase in smuggling across the Vermont-Canadian border. Sleeper says the state doesn’t have the resources to deal with this issue on a long term basis.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) In the not too distant future, the federal government in Canada is expected to announce plans to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. That decision greatly concerns some law enforcement officials on this side of the border.

Vermont Public Safety Commissioner Kerry Sleeper is convinced that the decision will result in more illegal attempts to bring marijuana into Vermont from Quebec:

(Sleeper) “So I am very concerned, we should be. And I think this was very irresponsible by the Canadian government without working more closely with the border states to consider the impact.”

(Kinzel) Sleeper says one of his biggest concerns is that much of the Canadian marijuana industry is run by organized crime:

(Sleeper) “Hell’s Angels, specifically, control much of the market. They enforce it very aggressively, they bomb, they kill people that try and become involved in the trade that aren’t part of their operation. So this is an invitation for organized crime to take a firmer root in Canada as well as exposing our border to traffic across it.”

(Kinzel) Sleeper says the Vermont border is being targeted by smuggling operations because New York State has taken steps to beef up their border crossings since September 11:

(Sleeper) “They put about 100 troopers just alone on the border. We haven’t and as a result we’re seeing increases in all types of illegal traffic coming across the Vermont border. It makes sense that those people in Montreal responsible for smuggling recognize where the border’s tighter and where it’s not, and they’re going to take advantage of it. So we in Vermont will unfortunately see increases in the smuggling.”

(Kinzel) Sleeper says law enforcement officials in this country are making a last minute plea with the Canadian government to delay or even cancel the implementation of the decriminalization plan.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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