Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Mounties Wary of Criminal Infiltration of Alberta Company's Opium Poppy Research

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Mounties Wary of Criminal Infiltration of Alberta Company's Opium Poppy Research

Article excerpt

Mounties wary of Alberta opium poppy project

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OTTAWA - The RCMP has voiced concerns to Health Canada about an Alberta company's plans to cultivate opium poppies over fears the medicinal project could attract drug-peddling criminals.

Lethbridge-based API Labs Inc. says it understands the national police force's worries, but insists the risk of criminal involvement can be managed with the proper precautions.

The national police force expressed its reservations about API Labs' activities during a conference call with several other federal agencies -- including Public Safety, the Privy Council Office and Health Canada -- in April last year, an internal RCMP briefing note reveals.

The RCMP followed up the call with a letter to a Health Canada assistant deputy minister outlining the force's concerns about the possible diversion of opium poppy material to "the illicit market" as well as infiltration of the project by "organized crime groups," says the briefing note.

The partially censored July 2014 note to Mike Cabana, the RCMP's deputy commissioner for federal policing, was obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

API Labs is trying to lay the groundwork for a western Canadian poppy industry that would see harvested plants refined into medicinal opiates -- such as morphine, codeine and oxycodone -- and the poppy seeds sold to bakeries.

It says establishing the industry would allow Canada to become self-sufficient in cultivating and processing poppies into medicine used by Canadians -- products that currently account for hundreds of millions of dollars in annual sales.

API Labs was licensed by Health Canada in 2011 to conduct research, and its desire to expand the scope of those efforts attracted the RCMP's attention, API Labs president Glen Metzler said in an interview.

Australia and France have been cultivating poppy high in morphine content for 40 years with no significant criminal diversion problems, the company says.

"The risk of diversion is there," said Metzler. …

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