Pubdate: Sun, 16 Oct 2016
Source: Calgary Sun, The (CN AB)
Copyright: 2016 The Calgary Sun
Author: Bill Kaufmann


Picturesque mountain resort town sits on major cross-country pot

It's Canada's other Rocky Mountain high.

The resort hamlet of Lake Louise has consistently ascended to the peak
of per-capita cannabis possession incidents in the country as reported
by RCMP.

Since at least 2008, the mountain village of a mere 800 souls has been
in the statistical clouds, with 7,938 possession incidents per 100,000
people in 2014 and 3,675 last year.

That compares to 58 and 46 respectively in the waning war on pot in
nearby Calgary.

And just up one of the most scenic highways on earth in Jasper, those
numbers have also reached lofty heights at the No. 2 spot with 3,024
possession incidents per 100,000 people last year.

Just as outlandish are Lake Louise and Jasper numbers for possession
and trafficking charges.

Of course, Lake Louise's tiny population of mostly hospitality
industry workers makes its drug busts go a long way in boosting those
per-capita stats.

Mounties say it's not even the locals who are driving

Skewing the figures are offenders packing a sizeable stash and passing
through on the Trans-Canada Highway where they're smoked out by RCMP
lying in ambush.

Employing sniffer dogs, police have targeted the corridor - and the
one through Jasper - as major transit points for drugs between the
west coast and the rest of Canada, said Sgt. Jack Poitras of the
RCMP's K Division.

In one four-month period in 2013, for instance, police seized 181 kg
of pot on Alberta highways, the bulk of it in the Lake Louise area.

Sometimes the busts come in waves, with three seizures during that
time period occurring over two days netting 80 kg of bud.

Even so, it's likely a drop in the bucket in the total amount of pot
being transited, RCMP Supt. Howard Eaton said at the time.

"When you think about the volume of vehicles going through Alberta,
we're probably getting a small percentage of what's actually moving
through it," he said

And Poitras said suspects are more frequently arming themselves,
leading to Mounties increasing the size of the units involved in the
revolving interdiction efforts.

"It's beginning to be a safety issue for them … those units are three
to five members at a time now," said Poitras.

With so many decrying the futility of the war on drugs, and Ottawa set
to legalize marijuana, Poitras is asked if those stops are still worth
the risk to his colleagues.

"It's always worth it if you can stop it going into kids' hands and
those who are vulnerable," he said, adding Mounties along those
highways are also seizing much more dangerous drugs like fentanyl,
crystal meth and cocaine.

Later in 2013, volunteer RCMP officers began patrolling the Lake
Louise ski area, partly on the lookout for downhillers toking up on
the slopes.

But after that one ski season, those patrols ended, said resort
spokesman Dan Markham, perhaps highlighting the main police focus on
the Trans-Canada Highway.

"There wasn't really a need for it and people complained about it,
saying people shouldn't be in the resort policing it," said Markham.

A much bigger issue than joints shared on chairlifts, he said, is the
theft of skiing equipment.

But he said he's not surprised roving RCMP highway patrols nearby have
had a more fruitful haul.

"There certainly is a lot of police presence on the road between Banff
and Lake Louise," he said.
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