Pubdate: Mon, 17 Jul 2017
Source: Edmonton Sun (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 Canoe Limited Partnership.
Author: Claire Theobald
Page: 2


Of the $8.65 million in illegal drugs the Alberta Law Enforcement
Response Team (ALERT) pulled off of Alberta's streets, well over half
of it was marijuana.

"Marijuana remains highly profitable for organized crime," said Insp.
Dave Dubnyk with ALERT. "It's traded for other drugs, used for
financing illegal enterprises."

According to information in the 2016-17 ALERT annual report,
investigators seized $5.4-million worth of marijuana last year.

Dubnyk said while ALERT officers may not be specifically targeting
marijuana, it is often discovered during other investigations
involving illegal drugs and organized crime.

"Marijuana by many may not be viewed as as harmful as other drugs like
fentanyl or ecstasy or methamphetamine, but at the end of the day any
drug activity is going to bring the associated violence as groups
fight to control distribution and their territory," Dubnyk said.

Even as the federal government moves to legalize the recreational use
of marijuana by July 1, 2018, Dubnyk doesn't believe it will reduce
ALERT's workload, saying in areas of the United States where marijuana
has been legalized there is still an active black market as legal
sources struggle to keep pace with demand.

"We've seen in other markets such as Colorado, for example, organized
crime still has a very significant role in a marijuana black market. I
would anticipate that would stay the same here," Dubnyk said. "With
the change in legislation, we are going to potentially see more legal
marijuana grow operations go up and certainly more people possessing
it, but (we are) still highly anticipating a large black market in
marijuana production, selling and trafficking. As long as that black
market exists, ALERT will investigate it."

Dubnyk said officers are less concerned with the drug itself and more
concerned with the illegal activity that surrounds it, including the
level of violence gangs use to protect themselves and their territory
from rivals.

Last year, ALERT investigators seized a record 249 firearms, a nearly
77 per cent increase over the number of guns confiscated the year prior.
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