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Rep. Bill Owens
Rep. Bill Owens

Lawmakers want better drug enforcement at border

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Congressman Bill Owens is one of a group of lawmakers working on a law designed to slow drug trafficking from Canada into the U.S.
A bill passed by both houses of Congress calls on the Office of National Drug Control Policy to craft a multi-agency and international strategy to tighten up on drug smugglers without hurting tourism and other commercial traffic across the northern border.
Martha Foley has more.

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A group of New York lawmakers says the federal government must do a better job of stopping drug smugglers crossing the northern border.

A measure passed last week calls for the Office of National Drug Control Policy to come up with a better plan to slow the amount of drug trafficking from Canada into the US.

The Senate already passed the bill. If President Barack Obama signs it, the ONDCP will have six months to draft recommendations.

The measure calls for a combined effort involving federal drug agencies along with state, local, tribal, and international governments.

Democratic Representative Bill Owens – who represents New York’s 23rd Congressional District – says a strategy is needed because of increased smuggling of cocaine, heroin, marijuana and ecstasy. “What this is going to do is allow the many agencies that work along the border – U.S. Border Patrols, Customs & Immigrations, local sheriff’s departments, state police, district attorneys, the U.S. attorneys, and their Canadian counterparts – to develop a comprehensive strategy,” he said. “This bill is designed to integrate a strategy for drug interdiction.”

Owens says law enforcement agencies have been “very supportive of this legislation.”  He says the goal will be to slow trafficking without throwing up new roadblocks to trade with Canada. “I think this moves us in the right direction,” he said. “The other thing that we’ve done here is focused very heavily on making sure this strategy that is developed does not interfere with legitimate commerce; that is, the movement of goods and people through the border. It’s going to be a bit of a balancing act, but that’s where we’re going to focus.”

Earlier this year, Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Sylvie Nelson garnered statewide attention after she was detained for hours at the border because she shared the same name as a wanted man.

Owens says these situations must be avoided so that tourists and shoppers aren’t discouraged from crossing the border.

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