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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Canadian pot seizures soar

Associated Press

OTTAWA – Seizures of Canadian-grown marijuana by U.S. authorities have increased 259 percent since 2001, but still constitute only about 2 percent of all such seizures at U.S. borders, a report by Canadian and U.S. authorities says.

“Most (cross-border) marijuana trafficking activity is southbound,” said the 28-page report. “The two governments are very concerned about an upward trend in seizures.”

The vast majority of marijuana seized at U.S. borders comes from Mexico, the report said. Though Canada accounts for only 2 percent of pot seized, it is still the second-largest supplier, followed by Colombia and Jamaica.

The report said the increase is partly the result of more effective policing, including tighter border controls and better cooperation between the two countries since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“We’ve been working more closely today than we ever have,” said Royal Canadian Mounted Police Chief Superintendent Raf Souccar, director general of drugs and organized crime.

“And we seem to be working smarter instead of harder,” he said, making the most of limited resources by combining efforts, following intelligence leads and targeting criminal organizations who wield the most power.

The study was jointly prepared by eight Canadian agencies, including the RCMP, Foreign Affairs, Health Canada and the Canadian Border Services Agency, and 10 American agencies, including the FBI, Homeland Security and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Most of the southbound marijuana seized is in bud form, known as sinsemilla, which is mainly produced in British Columbia and generally has higher potency levels than other forms of marijuana, the report said.

RCMP estimate that annual marijuana production in Canada ranges between 960 and 2,400 metric tons, most of it in British Columbia. Canadian authorities seized a record 1.4 million plants in 2003, the report said.

Annual U.S. production ranges between 3,100 and 7,100 metric tons, with 3.6 million plants seized in 2003.

The report says Canadian marijuana is primarily destined for major U.S. cities: Seattle, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego, Miami, New York, Phoenix and Tucson.

“Over the last five years, organized criminal groups based in Canada have emerged as suppliers of marijuana to the United States, exercising control over production, transportation and financing,” the report said.

The agency reports that Vietnamese and other Asian criminal organizations have supplanted outlaw motorcycle gangs as the No. 1 smuggling threat at the border.

“These groups are highly organized and transport large quantities of marijuana across the border into the United States.”

Many traffic several types of drugs, and proceeds from the sale of Canadian marijuana can be used to finance the purchase of cocaine and other drugs for import into Canada.

RCMP enforcement teams have been set up to target marijuana growth operations in British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec. Additional teams are expected to be established in Ontario and Atlantic Canada this year.