Earlier this month, the Lethbridge Police Service releases a media statement regarding a drug bust they made. In it, they claimed to have seized over a kilogram of meth, which they estimated was worth about $60,000.
This story reminded me of a story that I wrote last November about a drug house Alberta Sheriffs shut down last November. As I pointed out in the article, that was—at the time—the 6th such announcement in about 2 years.
That made me wonder how many drug seizure announcements the Lethbridge Police Service has made.
I combed through all their past media releases and found all the ones that mentioned drug charges or drug seizures. Unfortunately, with their website redesign last year, they removed all the archives older than 2020, so my dataset is only a little over a year’s worth.
What I found was 36 such statements released between 16 January 2020 and 17 March 2021. LPS laid charges against 77 individuals, for an average of 2.1 persons per media release.
Some of these incidents were organized drug busts, and some of them were drug seizures committed by cops while investigating other actions (such as stolen items or vehicle infractions).
The media releases were inconsistent in the information they provided. For example, nearly half of the releases contained no information regarding the worth of the drugs seized, while the other half did. As well, some releases indicated specific quantities, while others didn’t specify quantities.
Here’s a summary of what the cops have seized over the last year or so (keeping in mind that the totals are underrepresented due to so much missing information in their releases):
|Buffing agent||546.2 grams|
|Drug||# of unspecified seizures|
In addition to the above information, cops seized 8 blotters of LSD, 3 psilocybin candies, and 91.5 tabs of ecstasy.
- in drugs seized
- of meth
- of fentanyl
- 77 grams of carfentanil
- 943.2 grams of cocaine
In total, during incidents when cops indicated specific amounts, they seized a combined 15.2 kg of all drugs, again keeping in mind that there were 48 instances of unspecified drugs seized, so the total would’ve been higher.
Here’s the thing about all this.
Even if the 15.2 kg of drugs was all they seized since last January, even if $630,000 was the total value of all drugs they seized since last January, it hasn’t stopped the drug trade.
Their largest seizure based on total reported value occurred nearly a year ago, in April 2020. They seized $136,000 in meth, carfentanil, and cocaine.
Yet, just last month, they had a $135,000 bust, where they seized cannabis, shatter, LSD, psilocybin, and DMT. And that’s not including the $233,000 in drugs they reported between those two busts.
Organized crime doesn’t operate just one drug house in a city the size of Lethbridge. So shutting down one drug house doesn’t stop drug trafficking; it just shifts it to other already existing drug houses or encourages new drug houses to start up.
It’s the same thing with incarcerating drug dealers: throwing them in jail doesn’t stop the flow of drugs into a community, because there will always be someone ready to fill the void left when a dealer goes to prison.
The so-called “war on drugs” is a failure. For decades, cops have been shutting down drug houses, performing drug busts, and throwing drug dealers in jail. But drugs are still here. Not only that, but we’re in the middle of a drug crisis.
As long as people are addicted to drugs, there will be a market for drugs. There will be drug houses and drug dealers.
Plus, keeping those drugs illegal makes them scarce, and anyone who’s taken an introductory economics course and understands the theory of supply and demand knows that scarce resources are expensive resources.
Keeping drugs illegal keeps them expensive. And for those people who use drugs and are well off, it’s not that big of a deal. But for those who use drugs and can’t afford it, it is a big deal. Because they still need the drugs. That’s how addiction works.
And if they can’t afford it with their own money, they’ll find a way to get the money, even if it means stealing it.
Obviously, not everyone who uses drugs commits crimes. That would be a ridiculous claim to make. However, some do.
Shutting down drug houses doesn’t address addiction, the main cause of people buying drugs. And throwing drug dealers in jail doesn’t address poverty, the main reason people commit crime to afford drugs.
Until we start addressing the underlying issues driving the drug trade—both in Lethbridge and beyond—it’ll never matter how many drug houses are shut down, how many drug dealers are thrown in jail, how much drugs are seized.
The war on drugs is a failure. And by perpetuating this wasteful experience, we prevent ourselves from addressing poverty and addiction.