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Ecstasy, pot heading south

U.S. drug report asks for Canada's help

The acting U.S. drug czar is calling for increased co-operation with Canada to prevent ecstasy and marijuana from flowing south across the border -- and to stop guns, cocaine and methamphetamine from heading north.

Earlier this week, the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy published an updated National Northern Border Counternarcotics Strategy that calls for increased Canada-U.S. intelligence-sharing and drug interdiction along the 8,891-kilometre border between the two nations.

The 54-page report identifies the booming North Dakota oilpatch as a destination for Canadian drugs -- and the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation, located just south of the Manitoba border, as a potential smuggling hot spot.

"This influx of highly paid oilfield workers into an area with limited opportunities for spending their income has created a market for drugs and has led to an overall increase in crime," states the report, unveiled Tuesday in Minot, N.D., by Michael Botticelli, acting director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Violent crimes across the U.S. portion of the oil-producing Bakken region -- primarily western North Dakota and eastern Montana -- have doubled from 2005 to 2011, overwhelming local, state and tribal law-enforcement agencies, the report states. A July U.S. national drug strategy also called for more resources to fight organized crime in the Bakken region.

The crime is associated with the cross-border movement of drugs, money and guns. Canada is chiefly exporting ecstasy and marijuana into the U.S., while firearms, methamphetamine and cocaine are heading north, the report states.

The authors state Canada is the primary producer of ecstasy for all of North America, while most of the cocaine that winds up north of the border comes directly from the United States.

International criminal organizations based in Canada are exploiting "the vast rugged terrain and expansive bodies of water" that comprise the international border, the report states. Ecstasy is particularly profitable because it retails for $5 to $20 a tablet in Canada but sells for as much as US$70 per tablet south of the border.

Cocaine is attractive to ship north because it retails for US$25,000 to US$28,000 per kilogram in the United States but sells for $35,000 to $47,000 per kilogram in Canada.

To combat the cross-border flow of drugs, guns and money, the Obama administration wants U.S. authorities to increase intelligence-gathering and information-sharing with their Canadian counterparts and seize more drugs and money at border crossings, airports and lake and ocean ports.

The Americans also want to intensify counter-narcotics co-operation with border-region reserves such as Turtle Mountain, which sits within a few of the North Dakota counties that suffer from high unemployment.

The U.S. also wants to partner with Canada to investigate and prosecute criminal organizations, including outlaw motorcycle gangs and organized Chinese-Canadian, Indo-Canadian, Vietnamese-Canadian, Irish-Canadian and Italian-Canadian gangs, the report states.

The Canada Border Services Agency declined to comment on the report, but pledged to continue working with the U.S. to combat the two-way flow of drugs, guns and the proceeds of crime.

"Canada and the United States share a long history of co-operation along our shared borders in both combating threats and ensuring the legitimate flow of people and goods," CBSA spokeswoman Esme Bailey said in a statement.

"Strengthened co-operation on law enforcement, border management and intelligence is the most effective tool in addressing cross-border crime."

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

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