Canada is losing its war against dope, says this former member of the RCMP Drug Squad. Prevention is inadequate and cure almost nonexistent



Canada is losing its war against dope, says this former member of the RCMP Drug Squad. Prevention is inadequate and cure almost nonexistent





(former head of fhe RCMP Drug Squad in Toronfo)


a FEW years ago Mickey MacDonald laughed in my face.

“You Mounties are just dumb cops like all the rest,” he sneered. “You think you can wipe out drug addiction, but you can’t. You never will.”

It is hard for an ex-RCMP man to admit it, but Mickey MacDonald—notorious bank robber and drug addict—was right. The RCMP cannot wipe out drug addiction. What’s more, under the present setup they never will. They cannot even effectively control the spread of the narcotic habit in Canada.

1 know this because, when l resigned from the RCMP last year, I was in charge of the Drug Squad in Toronto, centre of the illicit heroin trade in this country. Although today I am back in my original trade as a druggist, l have kept a constant check on the worsening narcotic situation in Canada.

I first joined the RCMP in December, 1925, and served in many parts of Canada, particularly the West. The day I joined the Toronto Drug Squad in February, 1940, I was ordered underground and for several years I worked among the drug addicts and traffickers themselves. 1 wore street clothes, blackened the veins in my arms with burnt matches so they’d take me for a “regular,” and became adept at giving “the office” (signaling t he approach of the police). After winning my “fellow-addicts’ ” confidence I, of course, was in an ideal position to tell the police where and when to st rike.

In my seven years with the Toronto Drug Squad I helped tosend hundreds of addicts and traffickers to prison for aggregate terms that would run close to 1,000 years. But I never believed that in doing so I was helping to stop t he spread of drug addiction.

I wasn’t. I knew that dope was continually being smuggled into our prisons, and that the jails, reformatories and penitentiaries were breeding grounds for new or potential addicts.

The fact that the pay was poor and that 1 was not, as they say, getting any younger, contributed toward my decision to leave the force. But the main reason I resigned from the RCMP was because I sincerely felt that the federal Governmentwhose responsibility it is-—was not tackling the problem with enough vigor or tackling it in the right w'ay. I know that this view is shared by many of my former comrades in the RCMP and by many prominent men in the legal and medical fields.

Addicts Turn to Stealing

IN SPITE of the earnest efforts of our lawenforcement bodies, the narcotic habit is spreading in Canada, making new criminals and causing more and more crime. In its wake it is leaving thousands of physical and mental—not to mention moral—wrecks . . . Canadians whose bodies and minds have been twisted and warped and diseased

by drugs like heroin, morphine, opium, codeine, cocaine and marijuana.

A recent report to the federal Government by the semiofficial Technical Advisory Committee on Narcotic Drug Addiction admits that there has been a sharp rise in narcotic convictions since 1943 and that “new addicts are appearing at a rate sufficient to maintain and to somewhat increase the total addict population.” And the figures on convictions under the Opium and Narcotic Drug Act only tell a small part of the story; they don’t show that each year more and more addicts are being sent to jail for offenses under the Criminal Code. This is because today the drug addict must turn to other forms of crime to keep himself supplied with the drugs he craves.

The black-market price of narcotics has skyrocketed. Instead of the dollar addicts had to pay for one capsule in 1940, today they have to pay $3 in Toronto and $5 in Vancouver for the same

Canada is losing its war against dope, says this former member of the RCMP Drug Squad. Prevention is inadequate and cure almost nonexistent

amount of drug. The addict now requires $30 a day (in Vancouver, $50) to keep up the narcotic habit he has acquired. The only way he can get that, kind of money is by crime. As a result, more addicts are convicted on robbery charges than for possession of drugs. In any case, charges under the Opium and Narcotic Drug Act are much more difficult to prove. The addict or trafficker must be caught with illegal drugs actually on his person or in his possession. If he can swallow them (he often carries them in his mouth, tied in a rubber container) or throw them away before you stop him, he is safe even though you may know for certain that he is guilty.

The federal Government estimates that there are between 3and 4,000 drug addicts in Canada today. In my opinion the true figure is a great deal higher. In the City of Toronto alone there are more than 1,200 known, plus hundreds of suspected addicts.

The RCMP is doing its best to combat the growing menace but is hampered by loophole-filled laws, which lead to inadequate punishments, and by the policy of confining drug addicts and traffickers to the same prisons as other criminals.

Drug addiction is catching. We segregate smallpox victims to prevent them from contaminating others. Yet we lock up dope addicts and nonaddicts in the same prison. For had measure we even toss in the drug traffickers. The addict or the trafficker tempts the nonaddict with stories of the

thrills and the solace of drugs and when he gets out. the nonaddict often becomes a convert. Many addicts tried their first shot right inside their prison cells because there is a steady flow of illicit, narcotics into our jails, reformatories and penitentiaries. Drugs have been smuggled into prisons in hundreds of ways. The RCMP and prison authorities have tried to block this flow hut too often they no sooner uncover one underground supply route than another springs up.

Tale of a Shirt

ONE OF the ways in which narcotics are sent into an addict in jail is in a shirt. Morphine powder, enough to last an addict two weeks, is ironed into the collar of a shirt. The shirt is either sent to an addict as a gift through the regular channels, or a guard is bribed to take it in and deliver it, usually to a nonaddict prisoner to allay suspicion. The convict addict rips the collar off the shirt, when alone in his cell and gets out. his “works.” The “works” are a bent spoon, two matches, a medicine dropper and a tourniquet not too hard to obtain even in a prison and easy to conceal in a cell. The convict addict tears off a piece of the shirt collar and boils it in the bent spoon filled with about 10 drops of water. In this way the morphine is brought into solution. If the convict addict hasn’t a spike (a hypodermic needle), he scratches a vein with a pin or needle and absorbs the drug

through the cut, using his shirt sleeve, which ho twisfs with his teeth, as a tourniquet. The shirt method is difficult to detect unless every shirt that goes into the prison is submitted to a chemical test, which is hardly feasible.

In another method of morphine smuggling, once used extensively, letter paper was soaked in a narcotic solution, then dried and ironed smooth. A letter was then written on it in pencil and it was mailed to the convict addict or even to a nonaddict convict friend. The grapevine would have tipped off the addict to expect the letter with its harmless pencil-written message. When it arrived, he would tear off a piece and prepare the drug in the same way as the addict who got the fixed shirt. Hut we tumbled to the letter trick because dope-saturated letters had to be written in pencil as ink would have dissolved with the drug and made it poisonous.

Today all penciled letters to prisoners are subject to suspicion and are tested. But as long as prison guards are as poorly paid as they are now, the imprisoned addict will have a potential supply route. Recently, several guards were dismissed from Ontario penal institutions on suspicion of helping to get drugs through to prisoners. They are usually only dismissed because there is nearly always a lack of conclusive evidence to convict them on a drug charge.

In some of our smaller prisons where prisoners are permitted presents and allowed contact with visitors in the visitors’

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Ëm, dope is easier to smuggle than in bigger penitentiaries. Visitors ivey narcotics t© addict prisoners by means of osculation, for example. Carrying the drugs in a rubber container in her mouth, a woman visitor will transfer it to the addict’s mouth while kissing him under the eyes of the guard.

I remember one time the RCMP Drug Squad was tipped off that a wellknown addict-prostitute was going to visit an addict prisoner in Ontario’s Burwash Reformatory and was going to give him the “kiss treatment.” As soon as she appeared we grabbed her and began searching her. But she had stopped at the door and with that sixth sense addicts seem to develop, became suspicious and swallowed the drugs fast before we could stop her.

When we “took” an addict or trafficker we usually grabbed him by the throat while two others held on to his arms. In this way we stopped him from swallowing the packet and forced him to spit it out. But quite often we weren’t quick enough.

Light Punishment

When Mickey MacDonald—whose ■scape from Kingston over a year ago nade national headlines—was arrested m a hijacking charge in 1944 he was ilready a flaming addict, although he rad never been convicted on a drug charge. While he was in Toronto’s Don Jail he got all the drugs he wanted. We tnew he was getting them but we :ouldn’t find out how. An informant tipped me off that two addict friends rf Mickey’s were smuggling the stuff in to him but still we couldn’t catch ;hem. It took us a long time to find out row it was being done. Mickey’s friends were supplying other criminals with drugs, which they tied in a rubber container and swallowed. They would then get arrested on a minor charge and be sent to the Don. They carried the packages of narcotics in in their stomachs. When the drugs passed through their bodies, they would retrieve the package, wash it off and give it to Mickey. Addicts have been known to swallow 70 capsules in this way without trouble.

Ordinarily addicts are pretty sure of a short sentence. The Opium and Narcotic Drug Act provides from six months to seven years, plus a fine of from $200 to $1,000 and, in addition, the lash (at the discretion of the judge). While sentences of several years have been meted out to traffickers and a few addicts in recent years, the “six-month minimum” is the most common punishment to the drug user—certainly not enough to make him afraid to go back to drugs. Well over 50% of the sentences imposed for drug offenses are for a year or less.

Early in 1941, a 53-year-old woman obtained 40 prescriptions under 10 names and 20 addresses from 14 physicians in 125 days and had them filled at 18 drugstores — obtaining 140.18 grains of morphine and 44 grains of codeine. In the same year, a 21-year-old woman obtained 63.26 grains of morphine from 13 different doctors, using 11 names and 17 addresses over a period of 132 days. Both women were given six months.

A few months earlier a 69-year-old Chinese pleaded guilty to having a small quantity of opium. He, too, was sentenced to six months, although he paid a more extreme penalty because the Act states that any alien convicted on a drug charge must be deported. Fewer Canadian Chinese than is

commonly supposed are mixed up in the illicit narcotic trade. In the period 1930-46, 17% of the total drug convictions were registered against offenders of Chinese birth (64% against native-born Canadians). The percentage of convicted Chinese offenders is now 13%.

Nevertheless, cases involving Chinese generally receive the most publicity in the newspapers and, for that matter, are generally the most interesting.

In September, 1945, we raided a Chinese laundry on Toronto’s Queen Street East. In the basement rooms where the washing, ironing and drying was carried out a white girl assistant surrendered two decks of opium she had inside her blouse. Eventually we turned up the biggest opium haul ever found in Toronto—over 3,000 grains. Decks of opium were hidden all over the place, behind the sink, in the laundry and even ir. a dime novel called “The Straw Stack Murders,” in which the leaves were cut out near the binding so that 10 decks of opium could be hidden in the book. It had been used to send opium through the mails, rolled up in the periodical.

The woman, though only 23, admitted having been an opium addict (she ate it as well as smoked it) for over nine years. One day she called me to her cell. She wanted to make a deal. Could I get her off if she led me to the big shot who supplied her with the opium? I told her I couldn’t promise anything but that I would mention it to the judge that she had given us valuable information. She immediately put up her bail ($3,000), dispatched a wire to Halifax and hauled me off to Montreal where, with Montreal RCMP officers, we arrested a Halifax Chinese named Wong York Hing. We were able to prove that he had sold the woman lots of three pounds each at $650 a Chinese pound (4 ounces). He was given a year plus a $1,000 fine and was afterward deported. But if his customer hadn’t informed on him, he’d probably still be doing business.

In January, 1947, I received a wire from Vancouver stating that an 18year-old girl and a Victoria-born Chinese were arriving in Toronto that night with $3,500 to pick up a load of narcotics for the Vancouver market. We didn’t know the Chinese but the girl already had a record of theft and prostitution.

Drugs in a Paper Bag

We “met” the visiting dope buyers at Malton airport at 5.30 a.m., and it was almost 48 hours later—after constant shadowing of the pair—that we felt confident enough to pick them up just as they were getting ready to board their return plane to Vancouver.

In a brown paper bag in the 18-yearold girl’s purse I found 706 capsules of heroin. But on the man we found only $1,500 in cash and some hypodermic marks on his arms. No drugs. In her purse and his pocket we found the same Vancouver address. Both were sentenced to nine months plus a fine. The man appealed and won.

Although the girl’s record indicated she was diseased, she was allowed bail through a slip-up at the jail. She immediately began to ply her trade as a prostitute in order to make enough money to pay her lawyer’s fee. Twentyfour hours later, the mistake was discovered and she was immediately rearrested. She had $60.

She served her sentence, but by last spring she was back in jail again on another charge of drug trafficking. The drug found on the girl was heroin, secretly grown in Mexico. Its first stop is in New York City where it is crudely refined. The international

syndicate that controls this operation makes millions out of the illicit heroin trade every year. Its Canadian headquarters is in Toronto where a lot of the drug is shipped from New York for distribution to the Canadian market. The big drug barons have not been caught. They are too smart to handle the stuff themselves so consequently it is the paid hirelings and the addicts who pay for their crimes.

Before the war, most of Canada’s illicit narcotics came from either Europe or the Far East. When the war cut off the source, the addicts started getting their dope from “legal sources.” They went to reputable physicians, told them their doctors were overseas and described the symptoms of a disease usually treated with narcotics. They even chewed soap to simulate epilepsy. One addict obtained dozens of narcotic prescriptions for “his sick wife” from a gullible physician before he was caught. The woman (she wasn’t even his wife but a prostitute-addict) was in prison at the time. Traveling addicts, who knew all the symptoms, went from town to town victimizing legitimate practitioners for office shots. Others forged prescriptions by the dozens before they were caught.

Steal the Stuff

In 1942-43-44, many addicts turned from “making” the doctors and began breaking and entering drugstores and robbing their narcotic stock and this became the main source of supply for the dopers. In the year ending March 31. 1945, narcotics valued at $2,869,000 on the illegal market were stolen from retail drugstores, physicians (who sometimes had their bags stolen out of their cars), wholesalers and hospitals.

One daring narcotics robber who didn’t get away was the notorious Whitey Jacobs of Vancouver, who got a really big haul when he burgled the Anglo-Canadian Drug Company at Oshawa in July, 1946. About that t ime, although heroin was coming into Toronto from New York, Westerners were coming East to “knock off’ hospitals and wholesalers for narcotics to supply the Vancouver market. Whitey brought an expert safeblower with him from the West. But he was tripped up by an informant (the RCMP pays its stool pigeons well) who tipped us off. Whitey was picked up with his wife on the Vancouver-bound train as it pulled into Winnipeg. He got five years for possession.

But drug addicts do not come only from the criminal or even the lower classes. Even some members of the RCMP Drug Squads have been addicted. Many intelligent and successful business and professional men have fallen prey to this dread scourge. Doctors, dentists, veterinary surgeons, nurses, druggists have numbered among the convicted addicts and traffickers and have served time and suffered disgrace for their mistake.

In 1944 a trained nurse holding a responsible position at a county hospital in Ontario pleaded guilty to illegal possession of morphine and theft of narcotics from the hospital dispensary and was sentenced to six months plus $400 fine.

In September, 1945, I was checking the narcotic records of a Toronto druggist when I noticed that three doctors had issued prescriptions for extra large amounts of morphine and heroin for office use. What made me really suspicious was that all three prescriptions liad been brought in to be filled by a doctor who was already under investigation as a suspected drug addict and trafficker. I 11 call him Dr. X.

Three days later the druggist phoned

me at home around 9 p.m. and told x'ne that Dr. X was in the store again and had a prescription for 100 morphine tablets and 150 heroin tablets, issued over the signature of a highly reputable physician. Debating the possibility of forgery, 1 told the druggist to stall Dr. X off and 1 phoned the other doctor whose signature appeared under the prescription. He told me that Dr. X had come to see him and told him that lie liad exceeded his narcotic quota for the month and needed some morphine to treat a cancer patient. He asked him to order some for him on his quota. The physician, thinking he was helping a fellow doctor, wrote a prescription—but for only 50 morphine tablets. The rest was forged.

Black-Listed Doctor

When 1 arrived at the dispensary a few minutes later, Dr. X was still waiting for his prescription to be filled. I arrested him for forgery. The three earlier prescriptions turned out to have been altered in the same way. Dr. X reported to the department that he had used his narcotics for two cancer victims, a woman who proved to be dead and a woman who did not exist. Actually he had sold the drugs to a woman addict who in turn sold what she didn’t use herself on the illicit market. Dr. X got. a year in jail. The Medical Association canceled his license to practice medicine, and his license to handle narcotics had already been suspended, and his name was added to the RCMP Black List—a periodic list distributed to druggists and wholesalers.

The black list is a list, of professional men—doctors, dentists, veterinary surgeons, druggists—whose licenses to

pndle narcotics have been suspended ¡¡»cause they are either suspected Iddicts or are drug traffickers. There are scores of professional men on various black lists in Canada (every province has its own). The Ontario Black List contains over 50 names. 1 know because I furnished the proof to put most of them on there myself.

It is often argued that the criminal drug addict is the innocent victim of a disease. 1 don’t believe this attitude is either sane or sensible. The man who breaks the law to supply himself with drugs is a criminal and he must be considered and treated as such. 1 do not, as many people do, advocate the placing of drug addicts in hospitals instead of prisons. If has been proved over and over again, both here and in the U. S„ that addicts regard such socalled hospital or sanitarium cures only with contempt and ridicule. We cannot wipe out drug addiction with kind words, nor can we wipe it out by giving addicts “sustaining” or “diminishing shots of drugs.

Many plans have been advanced from different quarters that have much good in them. One thing responsible law-enforcement officers, who have direct contact with the narcotic situation agree on, is that the present setup must be changed.

From my experience in the RCMP Drug Squad and from long discussions 1 have had with the men who deal most closely with narcotics and addicts —judges and magistrates, prosecuting and defense attorneys, physicians and psychiatrists, druggists and drug-fcquad officers, and even the addicts themselvesI have evolved a plan that meets the approval of many prominent professional men in the legal and medical fields.

My plan would be to raise the minimum sentence for drug addicts and traffickers to five years, two years of which would be served at an isolated institution (like the former Northern Ontario concentration camp at Monteith), reserved exclusively for addicts and traffickers. This prison would be staffed by a specially trained and adequately paid staff headed by a member of the RCMP with extensive drug-squad experience. He would be assisted by a narcotic-trained physician and psychiatrist.

Discipline in the prison would be rigidly enforced at all times and the inmates kept under strict surveillance. The prison would be of the work-camp type and two years of hard labor without one single shot of dope would, I am sure, sweat the narcotics out of their systems. The remaining three years of their sentence would be under carefully supervised probation with strict parole. This would be the necessary deterrent that would keep the addicts from returning to the habit. If they even associated with known or suspected drug addicts or traffickers, they would be immediately taken off parole and sent back to their isolated prison. Sentences could be varied for first offenders and habitual repeaters, but five years would be the absolute minimum. Repeaters would receive progressively heavier sentences until after a predetermined number of convictions and then they would be confined for life.

Restrictions on Visitors

Life would be hard in this addict’s prison. No drugs would get in if proper supervision was maintained at all times. One letter a month would be allowed both prisoner and next of kin and these would be carefully scrutinized and tested before entering or leaving. No presents or parcels of any kind would be allowed. Prison personnel would not only be trustworthy men, but would be carefully checked entering or leaving the prison.

I think that a “no-visitors” rule would be necessary. However, if prisoners were allowed one or two visitors a year, they would only be able to speak to them in a specially equipped and inspected room where the prisoner and visitor would be kept at least six feet, apart by two eeiling-to-floor screens of the finest mesh.

The prison hospital would have to be segregated and strictly guarded. Any necessary narcotics or drugs in stock would have to be kept under the personal protection of either the prison doctor or supervisor. Not only those convicted on a drug charge, but every known and confirmed addict convicted on any charge whatsoever, would serve his term in this prison. They, too, would he subject to the genuine deterrent of three years on strict parole after their release. Traffickers would receive the lash at set intervals.

Today, when drug addicts cannot, obtain enough dope to satisfy their craving, they can buy certain hypnotics and sedatives (called “substitute drugs”) which they use to carry them over the drugless periods. Prescriptions for nonnarcotic hypnotics like nembutal and seconal are relatively easy to obtain and the addict can also buy these “substitutes” on the illicit, market at 50 cents a capsule.

I recall one case in 1944 where local police and RCMP officers raided the basement apartment of two known addicts and found a bottle containing 84 morphine tablets hidden in the grass about a foot outside the window. I Because the drugs were not. actually in the possession of the two suspects, I they went free. However, there was a

thumbprint on the morphine bottle, hut local police, in whose jurisdiction the prosecutions lay, neglected to send the print to Ottawa for identification. There have been several other instances in my experience of friction between the various law-enforcement, bodies concerned with narcotic cases and, in my opinion, lack of co-operation only results in inefficiency. In Vancouver, where city police do not participate in narcotic cases but turn them completely over to the RCMP Drug Squad, narcotic control is more efficient than in the other Canadian cities where local police must be on hand at the arrest. Narcotics are strictly a federal concern and I believe that the enforcement of narcotic control should not be a divided responsibility between the RCMP and the province or municipality concerned. Maximum efficiency can only be attained when all narcotic cases are handled exclusively by one agency. The RCMP Drug Squads, in my opinion, are best equipped to fill that function.

But ironing out the bugs in the police machinery will not solve the problem if drug addicts and traffickers continue

to receive small sentences and continue to be sent to the same prisons as nonaddict criminals. Drug offenders must be segregated and must be dealt with more severely. The salaries of prison guards and personnel, and of lawenforcement officers, should be adequate enough to nullify the temptations of bribery.

Recently, K. C. Hossick, narcotic control chief of the Department of National Health and Welfare in Ottawa, estimated that 2,000 addicts using one grain of morphine a day would be responsible—through the crimes they commit to satisfy their craving—for an economic loss to Canada of $42 millions yearly. There are many times 2,000 addicts in Canada and nearly all use more than a grain a day. And I am firmly convinced that the number of addicts and the cost to Canada is mounting alarmingly.

An effective plan of action will repay the cost to the taxpayer many times over. For the sake of our health and general welfare, the drug problem must be met and licked. So far, we are not even holding our own. -fc