Although drug czar John Walters has screamed loudly and often about the menace posed to the US by high-grade Canadian marijuana (http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/306/walters.shtml), a sober assessment of cross-border drug issues done by law enforcement in both countries seriously undercuts his hysterics. According to the "United States-Canada Border Drug Threat Assessment" released this week and whose US contributors include the DEA, the FBI, the drug czar's office, the National Drug Intelligence Center, and the Department of Homeland Security, Canadian pot makes up only a miniscule amount of the weed smoked in the US.
While noting that marijuana smuggling is a two-way street, with Mexican, Colombian, and Jamaican pot flowing into Canada through the US, the assessment found most of the cross-border marijuana trade was Canadian pot headed south. Still, it didn't amount to much in the grand scheme of things. "Most marijuana trafficking activity is southbound, although it is smuggled in both directions across the border," the assessment reported. But "Canadian-produced marijuana accounts for only approximately 2% of overall US marijuana seizures at its borders."
According to the assessment, US marijuana consumption is somewhere between 3,100 metric tons and 7,100 metric tons annually, with much of it being produced domestically. The vast bulk of the rest comes from Mexico. Of the 701 metric tons (nearly 1.6 million pounds) seized entering the US in fiscal year 2003, only 15.8 tons came from Canada. Assuming for the sake of argument that US officials seized 10% of Canadian pot imports, Canadian pot would account for at most 5% of the US market -- and that's using the low-end domestic consumption figure cited in the assessment. Using the high-end figure, the Canadian share of US domestic consumption dips closer to 2%.
Unsurprisingly, given high use levels reported in Canada, the assessment found that much Canadian marijuana is also consumed domestically.
The assessment also gives the lie to another prohibitionist canard: the menace of super-potent Canadian marijuana (http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/333/walters.shtml). While Walters and his ilk are fond of warning that BC Bud is "not your father's marijuana" and is seven, 10, or 20 times stronger than the weed that stoned the hippies, the assessment's sober analysis failed to back them up. Ignoring "ditchweed" and "commercial-grade" (Mexican) marijuana, potency differences between US and Canadian high-quality marijuana are minor, although the Canadians can still take pride in consistently producing slightly higher THC levels. US kind bud tested by federal authorities in 2003 averaged 7.4% THC, while Canadian averaged 9.6%.
The assessment dryly notes that nonetheless "the media are reporting THC levels averaging 20% or higher. This perception is based in part on US law enforcement reporting..." But, the study found, of more than 15,000 Canadian pot samples assayed since 1989, only 81, or 0.5%, had THC levels of 20% or more. If drug czar Walters and the other prohibitionists don't believe their critics about the Canadian marijuana threat, or the lack thereof, maybe they will believe their own law enforcement agencies. But somehow we doubt it.
Read the "United States-Canada Border Drug Threat Assessment" at http://www.psepc.gc.ca/publications/policing/drug_threat_e.asp online.