Canada: US Wants Canada To Crack Down On Illegal Drugs by James Gordon, CanWest News Service, (15 Mar 2006) StarPhoenix Canada Canada Major Source Of Marijuana, Ecstasy, Methamphetamine OTTAWA -- Methamphetamine, ecstasy and marijuana production is on the rise in Canada, a new report by the U.S. State Department says, and transnational crime groups are steadily importing more cocaine and heroin. While the American government's annual international narcotics review pegs the country as "primarily a drug consuming" one, Canada remains a significant producer of high-quality marijuana and a transit point for over-the-counter pharmaceuticals used in synthetic drugs. "Methamphetamine trafficking and availability rose during 2005," the document says, noting 95 per cent of the domestic supply comes from large, multi-kilogram operations. "Significant seizures of MDMA ( ecstasy ) from clandestine laboratories indicate they are larger and more sophisticated organized crime operations." Marijuana -- smuggled into the U.S. primarily via B.C., Ontario and Quebec -- remains a serious concern for law enforcement as well. "Though outdoor cultivation continues, the use of large and more sophisticated indoor grow operations is increasing because it allows year-round production," the document says. "The RCMP reports the involvement of ethnic Chinese and Vietnamese organized crime organizations in technologically advanced organic grow methods that produce marijuana with elevated THC levels." The Mounties conducted 430 marijuana investigations and 570 raids while seizing nearly 250,000 plants and arresting 283 people in 2005. The national police force also conducted 87 clandestine drug lab investigations leading to 36 raids -- one third of which involved ecstasy ( MDMA ) production. Approximately 64,000 doses of the drug were seized. RCMP officials weren't available for comment Tuesday afternoon. International crime groups lead many cocaine smuggling operations in Canada. According to the State Department, Colombian brokers are connecting producers with outlaw biker gangs and Italian and Caribbean organized crime. Shipments are usually routed through countries such as Haiti, Trinidad and Jamaica before coming here. Between January and September of 2005, the Canada Border Services Agency seized 1.66 metric tons of cocaine at land and sea ports of entry. While the report paints a positive picture of law enforcement efforts, it's clear the U.S. government wants legal changes to crack down on drug producers in this country. It notes marijuana cultivation is a thriving, low-risk pursuit, due in part to "low sentences meted out by Canadian courts." The U.S. may get its wish soon, as Justice Minister Vic Toews has suggested mandatory minimum sentences for serious drug crimes are on the way. The report also sums up various government-sponsored "harm-reduction" programs, such as providing safe-injection sites and crack pipes to chronic users. It notes the U.S. supports "science-based treatment programs to reduce drug use, as opposed to measures which facilitate drug abuse in hopes of reducing some of its harmful consequences." It makes a general request that Canada address the rise of ecstasy production and "improve its regulatory and enforcement capacity" regarding precursor chemicals as well. The Canadian government has taken several steps in that direction of late. Last summer, it boosted prison sentences for meth and ecstasy producers while proposing tighter controls on six chemicals used as base ingredients. Those regulations came into effect at the end of January. An organization representing Canada's non-prescription drug producers also introduced MethWatch, which trains retailers to spot suspicious purchases, last year.