Front in The Drug War Opens on Canadian Border

††Front in The Drug War Opens on Canadian Border

Posted by CN Staff on March 04, 2005 at 20:22:16 PT
By Sarah Kershaw†
Source: New York Times †

Seattle -- The drugs move across the Canadian border inside huge tractor-trailer rigs, pounds and pounds stashed in drums of frozen raspberries, tucked in shipments of crushed glass, wood chips and sawdust, or crammed into hollowed-out logs, in secret compartments that agents refer to as "coffins." Kayakers paddle them south from British Columbia across the freezing bays of America's northwest corner, and well-paid couriers carry up to 100 pounds at a time in makeshift backpacks, hiking eight hours over the rugged mountainous terrain that forms part of the border between the United States and Canada.
Small planes drop them onto raspberry fields and dairy farms in hockey bags equipped with avalanche beacons to alert traffickers that the drugs have landed.The contraband is called B.C. bud, a highly potent form of marijuana named for the Canadian province where it is grown, and it has become the center of what law enforcement officials say is an increasingly violent $7 billion cultivation and smuggling industry. On Thursday, four officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were shot to death in Alberta, British Columbia's neighboring province, as they were searching a marijuana-growing operation, one of many on the rise there. The killings stunned a country that has apparently not lost that many officers at once since the mid-19th century. Leigh H. Winchell, special agent in charge for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Seattle, which investigates border crimes and is part of the Department of Homeland Security, said the police killings in Alberta were stark evidence of "how serious the B.C. bud issue is getting, how much money is involved and the lengths to which these criminals are willing to go to protect it."He added, "It's getting worse and worse, and we need to address it at every level. The funding needs to be there, and the resolve of law enforcement to address it needs to be there - on both sides of the border. It's a very dark day for all of us."This new wave of drug trafficking, with Northwest Washington and Seattle a major transit point, comes as an enormous challenge to United States law enforcement agents stationed along the often invisible northern border. They are already dealing with the threat of terrorism, the flow of immigrants and new human smuggling operations - some run by some of the Canadian criminal organizations that move the marijuana south and cash, cocaine and guns north, American and Canadian law enforcement officials say. The situation is also spotlighting sharp differences in the way the two countries deal with drug crimes, with some officials and experts on both sides of the border saying Canada's less stringent drug laws have made it harder to stem the flow of contraband moving north and south. In British Columbia, a once-quiet province in a country that has long enjoyed a low crime rate, the murder rate has soared in the past two years, Canadian officials say, because of killings linked to warring drug gangs. Now law enforcement officials here fear the violence will migrate south. Mr. Winchell likened Seattle, with its currently low crime rate, to "Miami before the drug wars" because of what he said was an impending threat of drug-related violence. Vast amounts of drugs and money are now flowing through Seattle and other West Coast cities, he said, along the heavily traveled Interstate 5 corridor from California to the Canadian border. In many cases, law enforcement officials from both countries say, traffickers are smuggling cocaine north from California to Canada in exchange for B.C. bud. Inspector Paul Nadeau of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who runs the Coordinated Marijuana Enforcement Team in British Columbia, estimated that in his province alone, 3.7 million pounds of B.C. bud is produced annually, in up to 20,000 marijuana-growing operations, with as much as 50 percent of it smuggled into the United States at points as far east as Michigan. Efforts to combat the flow can be seen vividly in places like Blaine, Wash., a tiny border town along the shore in the northwestern part of the state, where agents patrol the waters, mountains and airways in brand-new boats and planes. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, agents have seen their manpower and technological resources double or triple, helping them seize growing amounts of B.C. bud. Along the Washington border alone, agents seized 20,500 pounds in 2004, worth more than $60 million, up from 4,000 pounds in 1998. But with possibly more than 1.5 million pounds coming south, according to the Canadian estimates, many acknowledge they are making a mere dent in what is coming across.B.C. bud is grown in indoor nurseries stocked with sophisticated lighting and ventilation equipment. Growers use a system known as hydroponic cultivation and carefully control the temperature, lighting and nutrients in a way that allows a succession of crops to be grown throughout the year. The process yields a drug that is far more potent than marijuana coming in from Mexico and other countries, giving B.C. bud an almost mythic reputation on the street. Wholesale, B.C. bud sells for about $3,000 a pound, though the price rises the farther from Seattle it is sold - $3,500 a pound by the time it reaches California. Marijuana smuggled across the southern border sells for $400 to $1,000 a pound in the Southwest United States, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. In the past year, agents in and around Blaine have also begun to seize an increasing amount of Ecstasy and chemicals used to make methamphetamine headed for the United States. As the agents in the Blaine area have caught on to the imaginative ways that smugglers sneak their contraband through, more drugs are being transported farther east along the border - which, including Alaska, stretches more than 5,000 miles - to places in Idaho, Montana and North Dakota, law enforcement agents say. This has prompted lawmakers from many of the northern border states to complain that the Canadian border is receiving less attention than the Mexican border. "I think the southern border just has the attention of the media, and with the northern border, people just assume it is far more secure than it is," said Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, who, among others, is lobbying the Bush administration for more agents on the Canadian border. The drug-trafficking situation is also one more potential strain on the already tense relationship between the United States and Canada, its top trading partner, experts say. Canada, which is debating decriminalizing personal marijuana use but is also considering stiffer penalties for marijuana growers, tends to mete out much lighter sentences than the United States courts for drug-related offenses, a situation that has American law enforcement officials - and even Canada's own police force - increasingly frustrated. Officials on both sides of the border say that because Canada has tended not to pursue growers aggressively, it is difficult to move up the chain and crack down on the larger criminal organizations controlling the large-scale drug trafficking, although Canadian prosecutors said they have recently been arresting and building more cases against the higher-level criminals. "The U.S. takes a sterner attitude on these things - more of a prohibition mode," said Christopher Sands, an expert on Canada at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. "Our philosophies are out of whack, and this increased flow is freaking out the Americans while the Canadians are more blasť." That could well change after Thursday's killings, said several officials, including Inspector Nadeau.Inspector Nadeau, who said he was deeply frustrated by his own country's greater tolerance of drug crimes, said he thought the deaths on Thursday were already sending an alarm throughout the country."Because of a tragedy we may actually see people try and address the issue in an effective manner," Inspector Nadeau said.Inspector Nadeau said he was irked by what he cited as low rates of arrested marijuana growers serving jail time. He said in 2004, only 8 percent of growers arrested were ordered to jail, down from 19 percent in 1997. He was citing a statistics gathered by the Canadian police, he said. "The courts are lackadaisical," he said. "I think we've created a generation of homegrown criminal organizations involved in this activity. They see themselves as untouchable."But Robert Prior, director of the Canadian Department of Justice's federal prosecution service for the British Columbia Region, said the courts were taking the marijuana problem seriously and that prosecutors were aggressively pursuing the larger organizations smuggling both B.C. bud south and cocaine and guns into Canada. Still, he acknowledged there were fundamental differences between judicial systems in the United States and Canada. "Canada just has a different philosophical view to the use of jail than the United States," Mr. Prior said. "The only offense we are completely agreed on is murder. Otherwise, it's very different."The major criminal organizations moving the drugs and guns, law enforcement officials say, are outlaw motorcycle gangs, particularly the Hells Angels, who have denied involvement but who law enforcement officials say do everything from growing to smuggling the drugs. Vietnamese and other Asian groups tend to specialize in growing, and Indo-Canadians have a niche is transporting the drugs, according to Mr. Winchell, of the United States Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Agency, and Inspector Nadeau. Canadians caught smuggling drugs into the United States, many of them mules for the major Canadian criminal organizations, are prosecuted and serve their sentences here. But typically after a year they can request a return to Canada, and if the request is granted, they may end up serving a much lighter sentence because of the differences in the two countries' drug penalties, said prosecutors on both sides of the border. United States agents have complained that they see some of the same Canadian smugglers soon after they were returned to Canada to face reduced sentences. Meanwhile, in and around Blaine, Border Patrol and other law enforcement agents are using every tool they have, including motion detectors, giant X-ray machines and cameras placed around easily crossed and unmanned border entries. The 32 cameras in the Blaine area, beaming into a control room at Border Patrol headquarters in Blaine, alerted technicians to a kayaker attempting to smuggle 104 pounds of B.C. bud in late January.It is, as the agents in Blaine describe it, a constant game of cat and mouse with the smugglers, who have lately taken to using BlackBerries and cellphone text messaging to transmit information about drops and pickups. It is a constant race to stay one step ahead, said Joseph W. Giuliano, deputy chief patrol agent for the Blaine sector of the United States Border Patrol. "Both of our jobs - the good guys and the bad - is to stay one step ahead of the curve," Mr. Giuliano said. "Just as we're doing our darndest to hold that position, they're doing their best to reacquire it."More Seek Treatment for MarijuanaWashington, March 4 (AP) - The admission rate for those who seek treatment for marijuana use nearly tripled between 1992 and 2002, according to the latest data compiled by the federal government.The numbers, released on Friday, reflect a growing use of marijuana in the 1990's and an increase in the drug's potency, said Tom Riley, a spokesman for the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy.The study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that admission rates rose from 45 per 100,000 people in 1992 to 118 per 100,000 people in 2002, which is the latest year such numbers are available.Complete Title: Violent New Front in Drug War Opens on the Canadian BorderSource: New York Times (NY)Author:  Sarah KershawPublished: March 5, 2005Copyright: 2005 The New York Times Company Contact: letters Website: Related Articles:Ottawa Aims To Get Tough on MJ Grow-ops's Time for Canada To Legalize Cannabis Panel Backs Legalizing Marijuana

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Comment #11 posted by goneposthole on March 05, 2005 at 06:42:05 PT
shocked and awed
20 thousand grow-ops in BC. How many in Toronto? Montreal? Calgary? Winnipeg?The total is 20 billion grams produced. Let's assume a grow-op on the average produces 40 kg of fine medical cannabis for everyone's indulgence for a year's worth of smoking enjoyment; so good. 20 000 000 000 / 40 000 = 500 000 grow-ops of a small size.  Seems like kind of a large number. If each grow-op produces 200 kg / year, the answer will be 100 000 grow-ops throughout the sprawling, second largest nation on earth, next to Russia. Do you think that the trade is going to be uprooted and ground into the dirt? Not very likely. Therefore, it is time to legalize.The alternative is plenty of death and destruction, but the neocons don't mind that. It don't look good for Canada if it wants (or is forced) to serve another master.
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Comment #10 posted by siege on March 05, 2005 at 05:55:19 PT
 Ignoramus can never see a simple solution if no one was 
killed or jailed or all there lives saving are not gone they are not happy there is no peace in there live. the sheriff here has cansor and every one tells him to smoke Marijuana and he gos out of it, he is a real bad a$$ about Marijuana for one J you get one year. a bagie that is 3 J you get 5 years I  guess the good lord doze thing his way to make one hurt so they can not do there job or is it called a wake up call. 
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Comment #9 posted by mayan on March 05, 2005 at 03:57:04 PT
Prohibition = Violence
The contraband is called B.C. bud, a highly potent form of marijuana named for the Canadian province where it is grown, and it has become the center of what law enforcement officials say is an increasingly violent $7 billion cultivation and smuggling industry.Would this "contraband" be worth $7,000,000,000 if it were legal? Would there be violence if the money in it dried up?Any prohibitionists out there care to answer? I doubt they will. They can't. Cannabis will always be around. All the laws in the world cannot change that. We can,however, end prohibition. It's the only solution. Such a simple solution!
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Comment #8 posted by BGreen on March 05, 2005 at 02:59:47 PT
The Shooter's Brother Sounds Off
RCMP Makes Royal Blunder: What were they thinking or why weren't they thinking?The Reverend Bud Green**********************************************************Aching to kill; Gunman a psychopath, his brother saysJames Roszko, the man who shot the officers and died shortly afterward, was a psychopath who owned automatic weapons and was aching for a chance to use them, his brother said."Why in the hell would they ever send those cops down there like that?" said George Roszko of Whitecourt, Alta., who is four years older than his estranged brother."What in the hell were they thinking? That they were going on a picnic? I mean, everybody knew him. The tragedy is that every community has some kind of a violent, psychopathic criminal mind living there. But when you know that, what are you doing? Sending the boys out on a picnic?"
Aching to kill; Gunman a psychopath, his brother says
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Comment #7 posted by afterburner on March 04, 2005 at 23:46:44 PT
If You're Tired of the RCMP Distraction...
Michele Kubby had an important case before the BC Supreme Court that had a court appearance and ruling the same day as the Mountie tragedy. Read about the details and listen to her reaction to the judge's ruling:Is Cannabis Legal in Canada? BC Supreme 
Court Agrees To Rule On Validity Of Marijuana Laws. Michele Kubby Gets Their Attention -- Richard Cowan reports.Pot TV Video about Michele's Legal Challenge of Canada's Pot Laws -- Running Time: 14 min (RealPlayer) KUBBY DEFENSE FUND
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Comment #6 posted by observer on March 04, 2005 at 22:13:31 PT
in BC, Mom & Pop McKenzie Grow
The major criminal organizations moving the drugs and guns, law enforcement officials say, are outlaw motorcycle gangs, particularly the Hells Angels, who have denied involvement but who law enforcement officials say do everything from growing to smuggling the drugs. Vietnamese and other Asian groups tend to specialize in growing, and Indo-Canadians have a niche is transporting the drugs, according to Mr. Winchell, of the United States Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Agency, and Inspector Nadeau.Sounds ominous, especially in the Bible belt. Here in B.C., however, you realize that not only is big organized crime into growing, but also everyone else, too. In some places in B.C., I'd guess about 1/3 of the households grow, or are thinking about it. I'm guessing it was like this in the U.S.A. during prohibition, lots of folks made some kind of booze. In Canada in 2005, lots of folks grow cannabis. The contraband is called B.C. bud, a highly potent form of marijuana...
 The B.C. bud, yes, it's mighty fine. True. (So book a nice bud-friendly BC Bed n Breakfast on your next vacation! Or how 'bout the next Toker's Bowl in Vancouver, BC? But I digress.) And just one word about some higher potency pot being a reason to jail people. "Hash." Hashish has been around for hundreds of years. Like wow, I had hash in the 70's, man. It was really strong, especially the black Afghani stuff. So don't let these prohibition propagandists fool you. It's always been possible to get the really good stuff. Hashish. 
observer's book: Drug War Propaganda - now in print
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Comment #5 posted by FoM on March 04, 2005 at 21:46:57 PT
One More Comment
I know that where this happened isn't in BC but BC seems to always get blamed.
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on March 04, 2005 at 21:41:16 PT
The Door
I don't know if this makes sense but I'll give it a try. I have been quietly reading the news since the killing of the RCMP happened. I try to step back and try to figure out how this can be used to advance a cause. I'm afraid that this might have just opened up the door for big problems for BC. I never was in Canada and never even made it to the north west to see the redwood trees that I would love to see. I wish Canada good luck because it's going to be very hard to get people to understand. I can't recall a similar cannabis related tragedy that has happened with four officers dead from down here in the states. One mentally ill man has caused all this to happen.
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Comment #3 posted by Hope on March 04, 2005 at 21:36:34 PT
If I didn't know
a single well known lunatic had killed these officers, I would think prohibitionists had had it done so they could write this c--- so they could further their agenda.They are more disgusting and despicable all the time. 
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Comment #2 posted by Hope on March 04, 2005 at 21:33:29 PT
What a bunch of B.S.
They have no shame.
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on March 04, 2005 at 20:27:58 PT

All I Can Say Right Now
I don't know what to say. I see this spin and how it's been since this tragedy happened and it is very upsetting to even feel a need to post some of these articles.

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