CALGARY — Calgary police are calling the seizure of a powder made from crushed opium poppies a wake-up call that use of the addictive drug is likely to continue to spread.
Two people were arrested and will be charged with trafficking and processing the drug, which is called doda, Drug Unit Staff Sgt. Darren Cave said Wednesday.
Tips from the public led officers to an Indian grocery story in the city’s northeast, he said. Officers were able to purchase a quantity of the drug before seizing 60 kilograms of opium poppies and about 13 kilograms of the crushed doda.
“I think it’s a wake-up call for the city, the province and the country in general that it is illegal and people shouldn’t dabble in it,” said Det. Doug Hudacin.
The drug is produced by grinding up dried opium poppy pods and then brewing the resulting powder into a herbal tea. It has similar, but milder, effects as other opiates such as morphine and heroin, but is just as addictive, said police.
Cave said officers were trained to recognize the drug after a massive seizure made in the city by Canada Border Services Agency agents in September.
In that case, over seven tonnes of the dried poppies were found in two semi-trailers in what officials said was quite possibly the largest seizure ever in Canada.
The drug is popular in Afghanistan and India and has been mostly seized from within the South Asian community within Canada. But Hudacin said drug addiction never stays isolated to a single ethnic or cultural group.
Vicky Dhillon, a councillor with the Ontario city of Brampton, has been pushing for more recognition about the drug since 2008.
In an interview with The Canadian Press last fall, he’s heard from people who spend $50 to $100 a day on the drug, and many don’t realize how dangerous it can be.
The drug is banned in India but its use remains widespread, he said.
He’s been contacted by mothers who can’t get their children to go to school due to an addiction, he said.
“I talked to a (teen), 18 years old, he quit school. He said, ’I want to quit it, but I can’t quit because whenever I see the shops that are selling there, I want to go and get it, because it’s very easy to get.”’
Dhillon said public education can make a different. Police in the area started a blitz that included letters to newspapers and warnings that arrests would happen, he said.
“I know that so many people quit who were taking this drug … because they know that it’s not going to be anymore on the shelves now. Before people were selling (it) like candies on the counter.”
Cave said he wants to make it very clear in Calgary that the drug is dangerous and its use is not condoned by authorities.
“We’re all in a learning process and I’m not ashamed to say that. We learned about this trend and we’ve reacted to this trend,” he said.
“The message we want to get out to the people — the citizens of Calgary and of Canada — is that this substance is illegal and people will be dealt with and charged accordingly.”