Cocaine burst into North American consciousness in the 1970s. It was the drug of choice for rock stars, movie moguls and high-powered executives. It was mostly out of the reach of the common person, however.
By the 1980s that had changed drastically. Spurred by demand, suppliers imported more coke into the U.S. than they could sell resulting in a glut that dropped prices by up to 80 per cent.
The crack epidemic was born. Powdered cocaine converted to the solid smokable form could be sold in smaller quantities to more people improving profit margins.
Today, cocaine is making a comeback. In Canada, demand has been growing by almost two per cent per year since 2004. And most of that demand is among teens and young adults. Surely not in Yorkton, though, right? Wrong.
It seems I have been writing a lot of stories recently about cocaine busts in the city. Of course, it’s almost impossible to say whether it is an anomaly or whether the police have been more vigilant or whether the supply is really growing.
There are good reasons to believe, however, that both supply and demand is growing if you look at the big picture.
One lawyer I talked to suggested it is gang-related. I’d say that is fairly self-evident. The cocaine trade in Canada has always been controlled by gangs, bikers and the mafia. Dealers always go where the money is and there is plenty in Saskatchewan right now.
The price of coke is also at an all-time low. With more and more sophisticated trafficking networks the drug’s value has continued to drop. At $180 to $200 per gram on Yorkton streets, it’s about the same price as in the ‘70s, but a 1973 dollar would be worth almost five today.
And Canada has something to trade. In recent years, according to the United Nations, Canada has become the world’s premier supplier of methamphetamine and ecstasy. And, of course, B.C. bud is in high demand in the United States.
Add to that the virtually un-patrollable lengths of coastline Canada has and the longest unguarded land border in the world. Is it any wonder we would see a marked increase in cocaine availability, particularly with the Saskatchewan economy in full bloom.
Last year we saw some high-profile busts at the Saskatchewan-U.S. border of people exporting pot and importing coke. Statisticians generally cite the 90-10 rule when talking about drug imports. For every kilo law enforcement agencies seize, nine get through.
There has always been a demand for drugs and there always will be. As long as they are illegal and the promise of extraordinary profit is high, there will be drug crime. Canada has a long and storied tradition of supplying Americans with their prohibited vices. In the global village, our markets have expanded.
I am not naive enough to believe there is a magic bullet for solving social problems related to drugs. The drug trade is a complex soup of cause and effect exacerbated by the lack of international legal consistency and will.
Despite all this, people in Yorkton appear to still wonder aloud: “In Yorkton? I don’t believe it.
Believe it. Every week, it seems, when I collect my court docket, there’s a new coke trafficking case to cover.