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XTC PRODUCTION ON RISE IN YORK REGIION

By Alfa, Jul 27, 2004 | |
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  1. Alfa
    PARTY PILL' PRODUCTION ON RISE IN YORK REGION

    Ecstasy Labs Follow Pot Houses To York

    They simply call it "E" and some York Region students say it's as easy
    to find as a pen and pad in the halls of area high schools.

    "If you want ecstasy, you'd have to talk to maybe a maximum of two
    people and you can find it," said Alex O'Gleman, a student at Brother
    Andre Catholic High School in Markham. "If it's weed you want, maybe
    one."

    "And it's like that at every school," added Brian Sanford, a former
    student of Pierre Elliott Trudeau High School in Unionville.

    Trudeau High is one block from the Brunswick Street home where police
    and fire crews stumbled on a large quantity of ecstasy and a pill
    press used to help manufacture the drug during a routine kitchen fire
    call this week.

    It's also within a few kilometres of the Manhattan Drive garage where
    $10 million worth of ecstasy and the chemicals used to make it were
    discovered by firefighters responding to a call about smoke billowing
    from inside.

    Ecstasy, which is known to produce a feeling of euphoria and render
    its users very responsive to touch, is popular at rave parties and
    dance clubs.

    Its use has been linked to several deaths at raves and several
    studies, while often disputed, say long term effects of prolonged use
    may include brain and or spinal cord damage.

    "It's a party pill," said Harry Capulong, who lives in the
    neighbourhood near the two drug manufacturing operations. "Ravers,
    party people, they're doing it every weekend. It's pretty widespread.
    But it's definitely a Friday and Saturday night drug."

    In its purest form, ecstasy is MDMA, a drug reportedly once used as a
    psychoanalytical tool and a truth serum by the United States military,
    although it never really worked.

    It gained its first bit of popularity as a recreational drug in the
    disco scene of the 1970s and became attached to the rave scene in
    Europe in the early 1990s before widespread use began in Canada.

    These days, any number of even more dangerous drugs are being sold as
    ecstasy, including speed, LSD, heroine, ephedrine and ketamine.

    Police know it's at local schools, clubs and raves and say it sells
    for anywhere from $25 to $45 a hit.

    And despite the fact the two clandestine labs shut down this week are
    just the fifth and sixth found in the region since 2000, York Regional
    Police drugs and vice officers said criminals looking to turn a quick
    profit are producing ecstasy in York Region in ever inc
    reasing numbers.

    "We know it's around," said Det. Sgt. Karen Noakes. "Much like the
    marijuana grow ops, they started out west and have now moved here. We
    know ecstasy labs are a growing trend out there and are starting to
    come out this way as well."

    Marijuana grow houses, 89 of which were found in the region in the
    first six months of this year, compared to 173 last year, are a little
    easier to spot than the designer drug labs, Det. Sgt. Noakes said.

    While marijuana grows use excessive amounts of electricity, often
    stealing it using makeshift wiring that isn't hard to spot, ecstasy
    labs run on much less power and have fewer easily identifiable signs.

    Also unlike marijuana, there are no bright lights and hydroponics
    equipment. Large scale operations can be run in a small area such as a
    garage using simple chemical lab equipment.

    The chemicals used to make various forms of the drug are easy to come
    by and ecstasy manufacturers will often pull vehicles full of the
    chemicals and lab equipment into the garage before they unload, making
    their movement into a neighbourhood difficult to spot, Det. Sgt.
    Noakes said.

    It's also quite a bit harder to clean up after officers locate the
    labs, she said.

    While a marijuana grow house can often be emptied by officers in a few
    hours, Det. Sgt. Noakes said the care used in clearing the possibly
    combustible and certainly dangerous chemicals from the Manhattan Drive
    lab this week took three days.

    Most of the signs residents can use to decide if there may be an
    ecstasy lab in their neighbourhood are the same as marijuana grow
    homes, she said.

    "You don't know the neighbours. They rarely put garbage out.
    Newspapers are piling up at the front door," Det. Sgt. Noakes said.
    "The people in there making or growing the drugs treat it like a flop
    house. So those signs are the same."

    A Statistics Canada survey on drug use among Canadians released this
    week showed 199,000 or 0.8 per cent of Canadians over the age of 15
    admitted to using ecstasy in 2003 and 732,000 or 2.9 per cent admitted
    having used it in their lifetime.

    Researchers don't know whether use is increasing because the previous
    study on drug use in 1994 didn't include ecstasy.

    However, the latest survey grouped ecstasy in with four other hard
    drugs including cocaine or crack, LSD, speed, and heroin, and showed
    use of the group of drugs is going up.

    In fact, 2.4 per cent of people aged 15 or older reported using at
    least one of the harder drugs in the past year, up from 1.6 per cent
    in 1994.

    With the popularity of the drug continuing to rise among local youth
    and the anonymity and size of suburbia increasing, Det. Noakes said
    local ecstasy production shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

    "As far as I'm concerned, the two this week are two too many," she
    said. "But there will be more."

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