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Drug abuse and trafficking are costly for NLers

Evidence collected by the PAB RCMP detachment in connection with an Oct. 17 arrest. – Courtesy of @RCMP

By Jaymie White Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

ST. JOHN’S — Even NL residents who have never even tried drugs or alcohol are paying for it. Substance use continues to be an issue across the province, and with that comes drug trafficking. According to the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction in 2023, substance use cost the province $833 million in 2020 alone. Those numbers cost every single resident in Newfoundland and Labrador, to the tune of $1,575 per person. This number is actually higher than the national average. For all of Canada as a whole, the substance use cost is $49.1 billion, which amounts to $1,291 per person. The data states that this amount can further be broken down into four cost categories:

  1. Lost productivity which amounts to $402 million, or 48 per cent

  2. Criminal justice which amounts to $128 million, or 15 per cent

  3. Healthcare which amounts to $258 million, or 31 per cent, and;

  4. Other direct costs, which amounts to $45 million, or 6 per cent. The most common substance abused in NL is alcohol, totaling $351 million, or 42 per cent. Tobacco follows closely behind at $270 million, or 32 per cent, but the following restricted substances are also on this list:

  5. Cocaine — $63 million, or 8 per cent

  6. Opioids — $54 million, or 7 per cent

  7. Cannabis — $33 million, or 4 per cent According to a report published by the Canadian Harm Reduction Project, the following statistics were uncovered:

  8. 39.4 per cent of the population of Newfoundland and Labrador reported lifetime use of one or more illicit drugs

  9. Over their lifetime, 6.6 per cent of individuals in Newfoundland and Labrador reported using cocaine/crack

  10. 8.2 per cent reported using hallucinogens, and 4.9 per cent reported using ecstasy

  11. 11.1 per cent reported using at least one illicit drug in the past year, while 11 per cent reported using one of the following illicit drugs: cannabis, cocaine/crack, speed, ecstasy, hallucinogens or heroin. These numbers are consistent with national trends, including that 43.2 per cent of Canadians have reported lifetime use of one or more illicit drugs and 11.3 per cent have used at least one illicit drug in the past 12 months. Statistics Canada found that substance abuse is often directly related to criminal activity. “The association between illicit drugs and crime in general has been well established by criminological researchers in Canada and elsewhere in the world. Research has shown that not only are many crimes committed by those who are under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, but crime, particularly property-related crime, is often committed to obtain money to purchase drugs.” Obviously, where there is a demand for the product, there will undoubtedly be an increased potential for access, often through drug trafficking, which is something the RCMP is consistently trying to curb. Those efforts extend into the Southwest coast region. Last month the Port aux Basques detachment reported on its continued efforts to target drug trafficking. “Channel-Port aux Basques RCMP arrested and charged 55-year-old Kevin Parsons after executing a search warrant authorized under the Controlled Drugs and Substance Act at his residence in Port aux Basques on Thursday, October 12, 2023, as part of an ongoing investigation. “Channel-Port aux Basques RCMP, with assistance from Police Dog Services Central, searched the home and located a quantity of cocaine, cash, and other material indicative of drug trafficking. “Parsons is charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking cocaine, possession of cocaine and unsafe storage of ammunition. He is set to appear in court at a later date. A second person arrested at the time of the search was released without charge. “The investigation is continuing. “Channel-Port aux Basques RCMP thanks the public for their assistance and reminds residents to continue to report suspected drug trafficking by calling 709-695-2149. Anonymity is guaranteed. You can also contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), visit http://www.nlcrimestoppers.com or use the P3Tips app. #SayItHere.” Earlier this summer, on July 26, the RCMP reported a drug trafficking bust in Corner Brook. “Three Corner Brook residents were arrested on July 26, 2023, as part of an ongoing drug trafficking investigation by the RCMP-RNC Joint Forces Operations West (JFO West). “Twenty-nine-year-old Travis Chambers is charged with Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking in Cocaine. “Police officers executed a search warrant at the residence of Chambers in Corner Brook, authorized under the Controlled Drug and Substances Act, and also searched his vehicle. A quantity of cocaine and cash, among other items, were seized. “Also arrested were twenty-six-year-old Brittany Lawlor, who is charged with Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking in Cocaine, and thirty-year-old Alex Payne, who is charged with Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking in Cocaine and Breach of Release Order. “JFO West, which includes dedicated police officers from both the RCMP and RNC, targets drug trafficking and organized crime on the west coast of the province.” According to the RCMP, drug trafficking is a consistent issue and the most common drugs seized include cocaine and crack cocaine, as well as various prescription medications. “Drug trafficking remains an issue in many communities throughout the province. Information gathered from the past three years shows that police involvement with drug trafficking has remained fairly consistent. Local detachments are continuing to receive and investigate reports of suspected drug trafficking. The RCMP-RNC Joint Forces Operation West is continuing its work to target prolific drug traffickers and networks on the west coast of the province and beyond that bring dangerous illicit drugs to communities. “Controlled drugs and substances are present in communities throughout the province. Our police officers continue their work towards drug enforcement and the seizure of these drugs and substances. The RCMP is continuing to seize various drugs as part of ongoing investigations. Since the legalization of cannabis, seizures of that particular drug are on the decline. Anyone having information about drug activity in their community is encouraged to make a report. “If you are a resident on the province’s west coast and you suspect there is drug trafficking in your neighbourhood, RCMP-RNC JFO West wants to talk with you. You can remain anonymous while speaking directly with a police officer by contacting the JFO West designated drug line at (709) 637-4221. Residents in other areas of the province are encouraged to contact their local police detachment to report illegal drug activities.

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