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Ganja slipping out

Drug traffickers funnelling contraband out of Jamaica via courier services

BY ALPHEA
SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, June 23, 2018

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THE Jamaica Constabulary Force's Narcotics Division says drug dealers have found a loophole in the courier industry and have been funnelling small quantities of ganja out of the country using this service, as well as postal agencies.

Detective Inspector Sheldon Coulson made the revelation yesterday at a press conference held at the Ministry of National Security in Kingston, to highlight this year's International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, which will be observed on June 26.

Coulson said although the quantities are small, collectively, it amounts to big profits for those involved.

“You have small-time traffickers sending small amounts of drugs through the courier services often. So if an individual should purchase a $100 bag of marijuana and pay approximately 3,000 Jamaican dollars to get it into the United States or the Eastern Caribbean, they can fetch anywhere between US$100 and US$150 for that… if they can send 20 of that for the week and 10 goes undetected, you will see how lucrative that aspect of the business is,” the detective inspector said.

He noted that this is not a new phenomenon.

“This problem has existed for some time… It is something that any person who wants to make quick cash will seek to get involved in,” Coulson said.

According to the detective inspector, the ganja is mainly destined for the United States, and the Eastern Caribbean to a lesser extent.

Coulson made it clear that the authorities are not taking the matter lightly and are working with the courier services to plug the gap in the system. A major part of the current challenge is that criminals are using random addresses to traffic marijuana, which makes it difficult for the police to investigate, he said.

He explained that part of the problem stems from the fact that anyone can contract a courier service without identification, which makes traceability difficult.

“You can stand on the roadside, call the courier service, they come and they collect your package [and] they do not require identification, so when the drug is seized, you cannot progress the investigation.

“Addresses are fake, so if someone in your community has an intention, they can easily use your address and when the police come, you will have to explain, as uncomfortable as it may seem, but we still have to do some level of investigation,” he said.

The detective inspector told the Jamaica Observer that the issue demands a multi-faceted approach, involving not only the police and the courier services.

“Certainly, where there is any loophole that can be addressed through legislation, that is something that we would welcome. This is something that we have discussed over time,” he said.

He said, too, that “whether or not any of the courier companies or managers can be prosecuted where they fail to adhere to standards, is something that we would have to look into, as well”.

At the same time, the police officer noted that the economic value of going after these small-scale traffickers must also be examined.

“How do you treat with an individual who is sending three or four pounds of ganja through the courier services, as opposed to expending resources to target this individual? It has existed over time, and it's just a matter for us to deal with it, once and for all,” he said.

The detective inspector said while the police may not be able to eradicate this level of drug trafficking, it can send a message when individuals are arrested.

In the meantime, Coulson stressed the dangers of the emerging practice of using extremely potent concoctions to attain unprecedented levels of intoxication.

“It's risky, because when it is used, the mind is altered and it will increase criminal activities. You have no idea what you're doing,” he said.

He said the police are reaching out to potential users of these harmful substances, through its demand reduction programme in partnership with the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA), to either deter vulnerable individuals from becoming involved, or help them to stop.

“We have heard of them, we have interviewed people who have mentioned it... but the truth is, we have not seen it. But we have to be proactive,” he said.

Director of client services at the NCDA Collette Kirlew said the agency has received reports of individuals lacing marijuana with cigarettes and embalming fluid, which is extremely dangerous as the substance comprises elements such as formaldehyde, methanol, ethanol, and other solvents.

“Effects can include bronchitis, body tissue destruction, brain, lung and kidney damage, impaired coordination, inflammation and sores in the throat, nose and oesophagus, pneumonia and spinal cord destruction,” she explained yesterday.

“We do not know about the prevalence and patterns of use of this substance and urge persons to stay away from it,” Kirlew continued.

June 26 is being observed as the United Nations International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. This year, the Jamaican authorities are focusing on the phenomenon of the reported use of embalming fluid, and the highly dangerous drug fentanyl. The NCDA will be rolling out a sensitisation programme, next week, to warn individuals about the dangers.

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