Canada: The Drug Business is Booming, Says Mounties Report

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The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) issued its annual report on the state of the drug fight on Monday, and the report shows that prohibitionist Canadian drug policies have largely failed to make illicit drugs more expensive or less available, but have fostered the growth of organized crime. The RCMP doesn't quite put it like that, though.

"The involvement of organized crime has significantly expanded the Canadian illicit drug trade, posing a major threat both domestically and internationally," the RCMP noted. "In fact, criminal organizations that previously specialized in one drug commodity type have now branched out into multi-commodity trafficking, importation and exportation. These organizations are powerful, well-connected and are dealing in high profit-yielding illicit ventures across the globe."

The report, Drug Situation in Canada -- 2006, provides an overview of the Canadian drug trade and highlights new and emerging trends. It is based on drug arrest and seizure statistics compiled by the RCMP.

No matter which illicit drug the report examines, it is difficult to find success at suppression. Although marijuana grow busts have declined in British Columbia, production remains stable in Ontario and Quebec, Canada supplies almost all its own marijuana, smugglers over the US border have grown increasingly sophisticated, and organized crime groups involved are branching out, the report found.

The Mounties reported seizing 1.7 million plants and 13,000 kilograms of marijuana in 2006, but noted the estimated size of the Canadian marijuana crop is between 1,400 and 3,500 metric tons, suggesting that enforcement efforts have had marginal impact. "Marihuana production remains an evolving and very lucrative industry, which continues to attract the attention of organized crime groups," the Mounties noted.

As for other drugs, "cocaine remains readily available across the country," the ecstasy situation was characterized by "wide availability and steady use," with "elevated levels of domestic production and distribution," while "methamphetamine availability continues to expand eastward," with Canadian "super labs" increasing even as overall meth lab busts declined. As for heroin, "There have been marginal changes in the supply and demand for heroin in Canada over the past year. The availability and purity of heroin have not declined and prices remain mostly stable."

Overall, the RCMP said the value of drugs seized in 2006 was $2.3 billion, with marijuana seizures accounting for nearly $2.2 billion of that. Still. with an illicit drug economy the RCMP estimates at somewhere between $11 and $45 billion annually, drug law enforcement is as failed in Canada as it is in the US.

The Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper wants to address this failure with what is essentially more of the same and has introduced legislation that would increase penalties for drug trafficking offenses and introduce mandatory minimum sentences for some of them. But the RCMP report should throw cold water on the idea that one can reduce drug use or availability through enforcement.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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