B.C. judge weighs doda dangers

A drug in common use by South East Asians may hold serious criminal consequences for two B.C. men caught growing the opiate in Chilliwack

Doda — an opiate commonly consumed in tea or hot water by South East Asians — may earn two B.C. men criminal records for harvesting a seven-acre field of it here in Chilliwack.

But because the drug is rarely seen in B.C. court cases, provincial court judge Roy Dickey will have to weigh several factors before sentencing the two men arrested when police raided the field in rural Chilliwack back in August, 2010.

Tehal Singh Bath, a 32-year-old Abbotsford man, and Mandeep Singh Dhaliwal, a 30-year-old Mission man, have pleaded guilty to production and possession of a controlled substance for the purposes of trafficking.

But Crown lawyers took the unusual step this week of presenting Dickey with more information from police witnesses to familiarize him with the production and potential street value of doda.

“It’s a serious offence and we want to make sure the judge has before him all the relevant material to arrive at an appropriate sentence,” federal Crown prosecutor Brad Smith said outside the court Thursday.

But defense lawyer Ian Donaldson suggested outside the courtroom that the “collateral harm” caused by doda is less than other drugs controlled by the criminal code.

“This drug does not appear to be one that has caused harm to the B.C. population, as far as I know,” he said. “No one is over-using doda and breaking into homes to feed his or her habit.”

But during Thursday’s court hearing, Detective-Const. Mark Haywood testified that doda has been an “ongoing concern” of the Peel Regional Police, especially since Arizona suppliers have been shut down by Canadian border agents and prices have shot up dramatically.

“It’s essentially gone through the roof,” he said.

Doda is used “almost exclusively” by the South East Asian population around Brampton, Ontario, Haywood said, where it can be bought at local meat shops and dry flower shops.

He said in 2010 one ounce of doda could fetch $50-$75 and one kilogram $2,500-$3,000, but the price had “basically doubled” in the last two years because of the Arizona supply problem.

Haywood agreed with Donaldson that, like other drugs, the larger the quantity of drug purchased, the less its price on the street, but he also noted that he has never heard of any doda being produced on this scale in Canada.

However, Donaldson questioned the size of the poppy harvest in Chilliwack as calculated by the police, and the value estimated by police in a “controlled grind” of 20 pods to produce the doda powder.

“Obviously, there is a legal significance in a general sense,” he suggested, in the size of the grow operation and the sentence Dickey will impose.

Smith and Donaldson return to court June 19 to fix a date for their sentencing submissions.