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It Came from the North: Assessing the Claim of Canada's Rising Role as a Global Supplier of Synthetic Drugs

NCJ Number
Crime Law and Social Change Volume: 66 Issue: 3 Dated: October 2016 Pages: 247-270
Carlo Morselli; Sheldon Zhang; David Farabee; Marie Ouellet; Stephen Easton
Date Published
October 2016
24 pages

This study assessed the Canadian synthetic drugs market by using multiple sources of data and three methods (georeferencing, economic modeling, and chemical composition analysis) to establish the scope, scale, and structure of synthetic-drugs production in Canada, with a focus on the province of Quebec.


The past decade saw increasing attention to Canada as a supplier of synthetic drugs to the United States and wider international market. Other than occasional drug seizures at border crossings and news stories, however, no systematic research has been conducted to verify such claims. The current study's findings indicate that: 1) smuggling patterns at the country's border are scattered, with no indication of an organized or concentrated trafficking system; 2) synthetic-drugs production is not high enough to substantiate a significant exportation potential; and 3) contradictions in the pricing and quality of synthetic drugs at the retail level indicate an unsophisticated and typically immature consumer market. Overall, the synthetic-drugs market in Canada is apparently a decentralized, largely localized, and young phenomenon, making it an unlikely significant source of supply or threat for the United States and beyond. (Publisher abstract modified)