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Ontario woman, 74, to face 29-year-old pot charge in U.S.

They do say that marijuana affects the memory.

A 74-year-old Hamilton, Ont., woman named Homenella Cole drove to the Lewiston-Queenston border crossing to New York State just after 1 p.m. on Monday, hoping to win entry into the United States.

She inquired about a special waiver that would allow her to visit the country despite a criminal conviction in Canada.

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She got her wish faster than expected when American officials punched her name into a computer, discovered a 29-year-old warrant for her arrest and promptly took her into custody.

Ms. Cole had been charged with possession with the intent to distribute marijuana on April 1, 1980, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Kevin Corsaro said he believes the incident involved 12 pounds (five kilograms) of the drug.

"At the border, that's not a lot," he said Wednesday. "But in New York City in 1980, it was probably a lot."

Ms. Cole was arrested by New York state troopers and is being transported to Queens, where she will face the long-standing charge.

Mr. Corsaro said he doesn't know how the woman reacted to her arrest.

"It's a 29-year-old warrant, but the law's the law and we have a responsibility," he said. "She's wanted and we have to arrest her."

Canadian citizens with criminal convictions often apply for waivers to enter the U.S., he said, and these are granted or denied on a case-by-case basis.

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Anyone convicted of a crime of "moral turpitude" is inadmissible, he said. This would include rape, murder and major narcotics convictions.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection often grants waivers for people who hope to attend a funeral south of the border, he said. It is unclear why Ms. Cole was hoping to visit the U.S.

Mr. Corsaro said he could not say whether Ms. Cole would have received the waiver, as he does not know the nature of her Canadian conviction.

"We get wanted people here in Buffalo all the time," he said. "We don't often arrest 74-year-olds with 29-year-old warrants. That's rare."

In his initial report on the subject, Mr. Corsaro said Ms. Cole had been extradited to the U.S. Wednesday, he said he used that term mistakenly, and that she was arrested in the U.S. and simply transported to New York. But the error did earn his bosses a concerned phone call from the Canadian government, he said.

Helen Peterson, a spokesperson for the Queens District Attorney's Office, confirmed that Ms. Cole's warrant is one of their outstanding cases.

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"But as you can imagine, the records have been stored away," she said. "Cases that far back aren't in our computer. So we're working on pulling the file."

Ms. Peterson was not aware of Ms. Cole's whereabouts on Wednesday, but said she could be in court as early as Thursday.

She could not comment on the penalty Ms. Cole will face because she was unsure of the specifics of her arrest.

"Without seeing what exactly she was charged with, I couldn't really say," she said.

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