Crime, Law and Social Change

, Volume 66, Issue 3, pp 247–270 | Cite as

It came from the north: assessing the claim of Canada’s rising role as a global supplier of synthetic drugs

  • Carlo MorselliEmail author
  • Martin Bouchard
  • Sheldon Zhang
  • David Farabee
  • Marie Ouellet
  • Stephen Easton


The past decade saw increasing attention turned toward Canada as an active supplier of synthetic drugs to the U.S. and wider international market. Other than occasional drug seizures at border crossings and news stories, no systematic research has been conducted to verify or ascertain such claims. This study assesses 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 particular focus on the province of Quebec. The study’s findings indicate that: 1) smuggling patterns at the country’s border are scattered with no indication of an organized or concentrated system of traffic; 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 emerges as a decentralized, largely localized, and young phenomenon, thus, making it an unlikely significant source of supply or threat for the U.S. and beyond.


Methamphetamine Drug Trafficking Border Crossing Synthetic Drug Ecstasy User 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This study was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice (2010-94019-CA-IJ). The authors are solely responsible for the viewpoints expressed herein this article. The authors thank Dominique Laferrière and Pier-Olivier Poulin for their help with the coding and analysis of some of the data used in this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carlo Morselli
    • 1
    Email author
  • Martin Bouchard
    • 2
  • Sheldon Zhang
    • 3
  • David Farabee
    • 4
  • Marie Ouellet
    • 2
  • Stephen Easton
    • 2
  1. 1.Centre International de Criminologie Comparée, School of CriminologyUniversité de MontréalQuebecCanada
  2. 2.Simon Fraser UniversityBurnabyCanada
  3. 3.San Diego State UniversitySan DiegoUSA
  4. 4.University of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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