OTTAWA — America’s drug czar says the United States can slow the flow of illegal narcotics from Canada by getting its own drug problem under control.
Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said Monday that getting more Americans off drugs will help reduce all the ecstasy, meth, heroin, marijuana and cocaine coming into the States. Kerlikowske, a former police chief in Seattle and Buffalo, said guns and drugs still move freely across the Canada-U.S. border.
“Smuggling of narcotics can often go into the United States, and in turn the flow of firearms into Canada, and I don’t think that has changed in the many years I’ve spent along the border, unfortunately,” Kerlikowske said. “I think that’s why it’s also so important to deal with the demand, because if we reduce our own consumption in the United States, if we prevent young people in Canada and the United States from using drugs, it will really help.”
Canada has become a major trafficking hub for meth and the club drug ecstasy.
The U.S. Department of Justice blames Asian drug gangs based in Canada for a resurgence of ecstasy use. The department says the amount of ecstasy seized at the Canada-U.S. border increased 594 per cent between 2004 and 2009.
Many of these drugs enter the States from Ontario and British Columbia.
U.S. border agents seized more than $9 million worth of ecstasy pills last month near the British Columbia-Washington state border. Smugglers stuffed 470,000 pills in backpacks they stashed in the bush. The U.S. Border Patrol called the ecstasy bust their biggest ever.
American authorities also seized more heroin, marijuana and cocaine in recent years.
“We have an incredible 6,000-mile border, which is primarily open,” Kerlikowske said.
“We know that law enforcement can work harder, and has done that, and exchanged more information. But, frankly, reducing our demand for drugs within the United States, particularly, right now, ecstasy, but also pharmaceuticals, which have taken a huge spike in the United States.” American lawmakers want the White House to crack down on drugs coming from Canada. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill this summer that would require Kerlikowske to give Congress a plan to fight drug smuggling at the northern border. A companion bill is with the Senate judiciary committee.
In Canada, the federal government launched an anti-drug campaign last week aimed at teenagers. The initiative features ads on television and social media websites, such as Facebook.
On Monday, a federally funded agency unveiled its new, anti-drug guide. The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse calls its guidelines a one-stop resource for schools, families and community workers.
The head of the centre, Michel Perron, said the guide sets a benchmark against which other drug-prevention programs can be measured.
“There are a lot of well-intentioned programs out there — doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily good,” Perron said. “What this does is help us establish good programming.”
Kerlikowske made his first visit to Canada on Monday for a series of meetings in Ottawa and to speak to the Centre on Substance Abuse.