FREDERICTON, New Brunswick -- The premier of New Brunswick, Richard Hatfield, was charged today with illegal possession of marijuana after a package was found in his luggage during Queen Elizabeth II's visit to Canada.
Supt. George Vermette of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said information was put before a judge and Hatfield, Canada's longest-serving provincial premier, was charged under the Narcotics Control Act.
Vermette declined to release further information.
The RCMP discovered about 1 ounce of marijuana in the outside pocket of Hatfield's suitcase Sept. 25 as they conducted a security check of luggage before it was to be put aboard the queen's flight from the provincial capital of Fredericton to Moncton, New Brunswick.
Hatfield, 53, confirmed Monday the cannabis was found in an outside pocket of his suitcase and denied it belonged to him. He said he had retained a lawyer.
'Obviously, I did not know how it got there,' the unmarried politician said.
A Canadian narcotics possession charge carries a maximum penalty of a $750 fine and six months in jail but legal authorities said recent convictions in the province for first offenders have brought $65 fines. Offenders of good character often receive absolute discharge.
The queen began her two-week tour of Canada in Moncton Sept. 24. She traveled the following day to Fredericton. The queen and Hatfield returned to Moncton later that day and the premier hosted a dinner for the monarch later that evening.
Hatfield was elected two years ago to an unprecedented fourth term as premier of New Brunswick. The Conservative leader was first sworn in as premier Nov. 12, 1970.
In June 1983, Hatfield created a stir in the British press with a rambling toast to visiting Prince Charles and Princess Diana at a dinner.
The British newspapers called Hatfield 'Disco Dick' with headlines such as 'Prince Stunned by Poetic Host,' said The Daily Telegraph. 'Rolling Thunder's Blunder,' said The Daily Mail.
Hatfield later denied suggestions he had been drunk.
Hatfield was an early and ardent supporter of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's effort to bring home the Canadian constitution from Britain. Under Hatfield's tenure, New Brunswick also became the first - and is still the only -- Canadian province to adopt bilingualism officially.