UNITED NATIONS -- Asian and "traditional" biker gangs have dramatically stepped up production of illegal "party" drugs in Canada, turning the country into a significant exporter, the United Nations said on Wednesday.
In a global survey of illegal drug production and trafficking, Canada is identified as a "primary" world source of Ecstasy, and likely the biggest supplier of methamphetamine "uppers" to Australia and Japan.
Steven Edwards, Canwest News Service
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
"Canada has become a major trafficking hub for meth and Ecstasy," says World Drug Report 2009 by Vienna-based UN Office on Drugs and Crime.
Justice Minister Doug Nicholson said the expansion of illegal drug production in Canada could be reversed through tougher trafficking penalties.
Mr. Nicholson said Health Canada could also "look at" the idea of banning sales of over-the-counter precursor chemicals. But he returned to the idea that legislating mandatory minimum sentences for producers would "send the message that Canada is no place to do [this type of] business."
The head of UNODC said that the tough controls on illegal drugs have limited the death toll from narcotics.
Statistics in the report show there are between 20-24 million serious drug users around the world, or less than one percent of the world's population, UNODC executive director Antonio Maria Costa told a news conference.
In a preface to the UN report Mr. Costa rejected calls to legalize drugs.
"There has been a limited but growing chorus among politicians, the press and even in public opinion saying drug control is not working," Mr. Costa said.
"While changes are needed, they should be in favor of different means to protect society against drugs rather than by pursuing the goal of abandoning protection," he said.
Law enforcement should focus on drug traffickers instead of users, Mr. Costa said, stressing that "people who take drugs need medical help, not criminal retribution."
In some countries, five times as many people were jailed for drug use as for trafficking.
"This is a waste of money for the police, and a waste of lives for those thrown in jail," noted Mr. Costa. "Go after the piranhas, not the minnows."
The report showed global use of cocaine, heroin and cannabis fell last year while production of stimulants rose.
"The embedded story in this report is that the markets for the three main drugs -- cocaine, heroin and cannabis -- are on a downward trend," said Mr. Costa.
But production of man-made amphetamine-type stimulants -- including methamphetamines and Ecstasy, which is harder to track -- was up, the report showed.
"What was once a cottage industry has become big business," the report noted.
Canwest News Service, with files from Agence France-Presse.