Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from contributing editor Dr. Stefano Tijerina, a lecturer in management and Chris Kobrack Research Fellow in Canadian Business History at the University’s of Maine’s Business School.
Canadians have been consuming cocaine since the early twentieth century. They have traditionally been part of the larger western thirst for the stimulant that resulted in a transnational global industry that was initially controlled by European mafias. Nevertheless, prior to the 1970s, Canadian media repeatedly published articles that highlighted the drug addiction crisis as an American and European problem, not a Canadian problem. While Canadians consumed cocaine that entered their borders via Europe and the United States, media distracted its readership with the “other’s problem.” In 1970, for example, the Medicine Hat News reported that New York City authorities had confiscated US$9 million worth of heroin and cocaine. The arrest included an Argentinean, a Cuban, and two American men linked to a trafficking ring from Vichy, France. The drugs had been shipped from Marseilles and into the United States via Corsica. Cocaine trafficking was yet to be constructed as a Latin American problem.
This quickly changed in the 1970s, even though American urban centers along the 49th parallel became the core of the distribution networks for Canadian consumers. In 1972, for example, Canadian authorities reported that there had been a “sudden jump in cocaine use, with large amounts being imported via Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver directly from South America.” The advancement of this idea paralleled increasing reports of cocaine related arrests at the borderland, but even these reports gave minimum relevance to the U.S.-Canada dynamic, arguing that these petty crimes were “just side roads to the mainstream of drug trafficking.”