SYNTHETIC DRUGS A GROWING THREAT
Production Easy. Money Spent On Illicit Drugs Tops Gdp Of 88% Of World's Countries
Marijuana remains the drug of choice around the world, but the surge in clandestine methamphetamine production is a growing concern, an international conference on fighting drugs heard yesterday.
"Synthetic drugs are really one of the key threats that we have to look at over the next few years," Derek Ogden, the RCMP's director general, drugs and organized crime, told the 24th International Drug Enforcement Conference in Montreal yesterday.
The production of these drugs is easy, but its toll on users and environmental harm to communities are severe, he told nearly 300 delegates from 76 countries.
Synthetic drugs are a growing portion of the estimated $ billion U.S. spent annually around the world on illicit drugs. That exceeds the gross domestic product of 88 per cent of countries in the world.
Karen Tandy, administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, said an estimated 26 million people worldwide use ecstasy and methamphetamines, which she added still ranks well behind the 161 million users of various forms of cannabis.
Addiction to ecstasy or meth leaves users physically battered by the potent chemicals.
Criminals are attempting to avoid law enforcement by rerouting precursor drugs like ephedrine through various countries, particularly in Africa.
Canada is increasingly becoming a destination of choice. Canadian police dismantled 30 clandestine labs last year, up from 14 a year earlier, RCMP Deputy Commissioner Pierre-Yves Bourduas said.
"We've seen clearly across the country a resurgence of these types of labs," Bourduas said.
Tandy said disrupting the shipment of these and other drugs require a high degree of international co-operation. Such sensitive matters are being discussed behind closed doors for much of the conference.
"Intelligence, intelligence," Tandy said.
"It is all about that if we are to really hit these organizations where they are most vulnerable, if we are really to have the kind of impact that we're here to deliver to the world's greatest evil organizations."
A by-product of this intelligence has been to help coalition soldiers avert terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, she said.
More than 90 per cent of the world's heroin is supplied from this embattled region.
Critics of the U.S. drug policy held a counter symposium blocks from the official conference. They argued the U.S.-led drug war has been a failure.
But Tandy rejected the criticism, arguing that drug use is down sharply among teens and adults in the United States.
Tandy also said she is pleased with the approach of Canada's new Conservative government, which vowed not to follow through with the former Liberal government's pledge to decriminalize possession of small quantities of pot.
The conference, at the Hilton Montreal Bonaventure Hotel, began Monday and ends tomorrow.