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Editorial: Of drugs and such

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The Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda has been having a rough go of it lately; there is no denying that. In fact, most of the headline grabbing news have not painted a pretty picture and have contributed to declining morale in the force and further damaged the injured reputation and relationship that exists with the public. And while everyone focuses on the negative, there is some positive news coming from the force, and it is being delivered quite often by the K9 unit.
Recently, there has been a decent amount of news about serious drug interdiction operations being conducted at our ports of entry. In many of these cases, the K9 officers feature prominently, and we should take time to commend them for the great work that they are doing. Of course, they do not work alone, and many of these operations are joint activities between other departments in the Force and other law enforcement organisations, like the Office of National Drug and Money Laundering Control Policy (ONDCP) and the Customs and Excise Division. So, kudos to them as well.
The most recent joint operation occurred at the V. C. Bird International Airport and netted a cool quarter-million dollars-worth of drugs destined for the streets of our bit of paradise. In this case, the dogs sniffed out drugs in two separate shipments located in the Customs Bonded Warehouse. And to show you how good these dogs are, in one instance, they alerted their handlers to 21 vacuum-sealed packages of cannabis inside four buckets of laundry detergent inside of a barrel. That is pretty impressive!
What we cannot understand is why anyone would ship cannabis from Canada to Antigua? Could it be that the economics of Canadians growing weed has reversed the normal south to north route for marijuana? Sorry to go on a tangent here, but we saw some recent statistics from the great white north (a.k.a. Canada) and we were shocked. According to Bloomberg, two of that country’s marijuana companies are now each worth more than the nation’s entire marijuana market. Statistics Canada reports that Canadians spent CAD$5.7 billion on medical and recreational marijuana in 2017 (which works out to be about CAD$1,200 per consumer). Wow! Is anyone left wondering why we invited the Canadians to Cabinet? In any case, that vibrant market has propelled the market value of Canopy Growth Corp. and Aurora Cannabis Inc. to more than CAD$6 billion each, and the companies’ share prices have more than tripled in 2017.
In any case, it appears that our law enforcement agencies have already adjusted their strategies to look both ways on the once one-way street. And it is not just the Canadians that are at it. There were also barrels coming out of the United States aboard Amerijet Cargo Airlines that were found with a total of 49-and-a-half pounds of compressed cannabis. The illegal drugs were found hidden among four buckets of food items.
This got us thinking. If Canadians are sending drugs to Antigua and Barbuda, and the Americans are sending marijuana to our little bit of paradise, then are we still considered a transshipment port or just the final destination? (Not sure if we were ever a major transshipment point for harder drugs.) It seems very unlikely that the drugs from North America will be shipped to Antigua for further transshipment. Where would the drug dealer ship to? And if the police keep up the good work of intercepting the drugs, then the cost will rise and the onward shipment would seem economically unviable. Add to that the more relaxed approach to cannabis and the push toward medical marijuana and the whole drug trade may be in the process of being turned on its head.
The United States Department of State, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs recently release the 2018 version of its International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (Volume II). The second sentence in the introduction to Antigua and Barbuda states, “Antigua and Barbuda is a transit point for illegal drugs going to the United States and Europe.” Literally, the second sentence! If the current trend continues, and we continue to receive more drug shipments from our neighbours to the north, will the line be modified to say, Antigua and Barbuda is a destination point for illegal drugs coming from the United States and Canada?
We really do not know much about the drug trade so we cannot make any predictions. But, we will continue to be observers and hope that we can one day write about the thriving marijuana business that is pumping billions into our economy.  It is unlikely but we can dream, can’t we?

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