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It Came from the North: Estimating the Flow of Methamphetamine and Other Synthetic Drugs From Quebec, Canada

NCJ Number
David Farabee; Carlo Morselli; Sheldon Zhang
Date Published
March 2013
110 pages
This study attempted to estimate the size of synthetic drug production (methamphetamine in particular) in Quebec, Canada, assess its export potential, and explore implications for counter-narcotics policies.
Research on drug trafficking in the U.S. has mostly centered on Latin Americaparticularly Mexicoin recent years due to widely publicized violence. However, there have been well documented cases of drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) in Canada, such as the Hells Angels and Asian gangs, that produce and transport large quantities of cannabis and amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) into the U.S. Official reports from both countries and the United Nations suggest that Canada is becoming a major global supplier of synthetic drugs. But little empirical research has been conducted to verify these claims or to estimate the size of the drug trade. The specific objectives of this study were: 1. What is the scale of production and consumption of ATS in Quebec Canada, based on capture-recapture sampling and analysis of official data? 2. What is the difference between production and consumption, assuming any surplus is intended for export to other North American markets? 3. How are these drugs manufactured in Quebec (using lab records of chemical composition assays of seized drugs to establish the origin of production)? 4. What are the organizational characteristics of those involved in the production and distribution of methamphetamine and other synthetic drugs in Quebec? 5. What threats do these criminal organizations pose to both the U.S. and Canada, and what policy implications can be drawn from our impact estimates? The scientific and policy implications of this empirical effort cannot be overstated due to the resurgence of high-quality synthetic drugs in the U.S. Policy makers and law enforcement agencies are searching for valid empirical measures to marshal resources to mount counter measures. Findings from this joint U.S. and Canada effort provide needed empirical guidance to policy makers of Federal, State, and local governments of both countries.

Date Published: March 1, 2013