Pubdate: Sat, 11 Apr 2009
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2009 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Jeff Labine
Bookmark: (doda)
Bookmark: (poppy)


Poppy Derivative Has Addictive Properties

There is very little meat at Raj Meat Shop, a grimy store tucked 
among other grimy shops and massage parlours in a strip mall on 
Kennedy Road in Brampton.

Several selections of colourful meat sit among otherwise empty 
display cases, but behind the cash register, where a single employee 
avoids a reporter's questions with a mumble, the walls are barren.

According to Peel Regional Police, the store, along with five other 
meat and flower shops in Brampton, were actually in the business of 
selling doda, a dark powder made of ground poppy pods and used to 
brew a powerful opium tea.

In late March, police executed a series of search warrants and 
charged 22 people with various trafficking offences. Police seized 
432.5 kilograms of suspected doda and 256 boxes of opium poppy heads, 
valued at more than $1.7-million.

Around the corner, six people were arrested at Brampton Advanced Dry 
Flowers and charged with trafficking and possession of doda. The 
store now appears empty, the doors locked and lights off, during 
normal business hours. When telephoned, there is no response.

"A lot of these guys are running under the guise of dried-flower 
stores, but you go into these stores and they have nothing in them, 
nothing other than doda, nothing other than dried poppies," said 
Constable Mark Haywood, the officer in charge of Peel's investigation.

"Yes, the flower is used in flower arrangements, but you have to use 
your common sense on it. If you've got a meat shop that has 10 breast 
of chicken and their main source of income is selling doda, what 
right do they have to have 150 boxes of poppy heads?"

Suburban Peel Region, with its large population of South Asian 
immigrants, is now an unlikely ground zero for an emerging battle 
against an ancient old-world drug.

There have been two crackdowns in Peel, which targeted doda more 
aggressively under pressure from Brampton Councillor Vicky Dhillon, 
who heard about the addictive drug from his teenage children and 
decided it was becoming a big problem.

"I heard their stories how the kids go to the meat shops and buy $10 
drugs together and divide it up," Mr. Dhillon said. "I got phone 
calls from their moms who heard I was fighting [doda] and I talked to 
their kids, one 17 years old, one 18 years old, and they are totally 
addicted. They said they couldn't quit until they are not selling 
[it] on the streets. It is a cheap drug. They quit school and don't 
go to work and they stay home, dependent on this drug. That is why it 
was very important that someone step forward in order to stop it."

The use of opium tea has been popular for hundreds of years. Truck 
drivers and taxi drivers have been said to use doda to keep 
themselves awake and focused, although this goes against what Peel 
police believe the drug typically does. The effects of doda range 
from calmness and relaxation to sleeplessness, lethargy, itching, 
slowed breathing and nausea. High enough doses can lead to death.

Opium poppies are illegal under the Controlled Drugs and Substances 
Act, but poppy seeds are not inherently illegal.

The Act states any derivative of the poppy flower is also illegal, 
including the poppy pods used in doda. However, certain types of 
poppy pods -- including most of those from Arizona--have a limited 
amount of opiates in them, which would make them legal. Furthermore, 
dried poppy pods can be used in floral arrangements. Doda users can 
simply buy the pods in a flower shop, grind them down and drink them in a tea.

"Right now, the South Asian community is addicting more and more. 
They are the only ones to know about this drug," Mr. Dhillon said, 
noting Canadian authorities have been slow to respond. "I talked to 
Health Canada and they said it was not illegal, it is just a flower. 
They talk to doctors, they said it is drug."

Peel police say the battle against doda has been a learning 
experience, both for them and for Health Canada, which tests seized 
materials for levels of opiates.

Const. Haywood said the first samples sent to Health Canada weren't 
sufficient, but Peel increased the quantity of the sample and 
eventually Health Canada confirmed it contained codeine and morphine, 
two main ingredients of opium.

"When we first started doing this, there were issues with ... Health 
Canada. We basically had to educate them and went and spoke with one 
of the head guys from Health Canada," Const. Haywood said. "Since it 
happened, of course we got calls all across Canada regarding what it 
is, what they can expect out there and what they can do to prosecute."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom