Doda: Drug War Déjà Vu

I had a weird feeling of Drug War déjà vu when I read this story from the Calgary Times about a new drug called ‘doda’.

Calgary police and politicians are in a frenzy over the drug – made from poppies and used predominately by the members of the South Asian community – which they say is illegal, addictive and ruining families everyday.

The doda powder is mixed into tea and used by “cleaners, cabbies and truck drivers” who, according to the article, say the drug “breaks the monotony of repetitive work and helps people get through long hours on the job.”

Wow. Police and politicians targeting a dried herb brought in by an “immigrant community”, claiming it ruins families and vowing to wage a war until it is eradicated … sound familiar? It sure does.

From the Calgary Herald:

Calgary police fear spread of poppy-based street drug

An unusual drug concoction made from the seeds of the flower that produces opium is gaining the attention of police and a political leader in an immigrant community who says he’s seen families ruined by the addictive brew.

The dried and ground poppyseed mixture, called doda, is typically put into a tea, providing an addictive high that breaks the monotony of repetitive work and helps people get through long hours on the job, say those who’ve seen the effects of the drug.

Community leaders, police and politicians in Calgary are increasingly worried about the growing popularity of doda among some members of the South Asian community who works as cleaners, cabbies and truck drivers.

“I have seen families ruined by this,” said Darshan Kang, the MLA for the northeast riding of Calgary-McCall. “Those people, they will spend all their money on this.”

Kang’s comments come on the heels of record seizures of doda made in Calgary by Canada Border Services Agency.

On Sept. 22, local CBSA officers inspected a commercial container declared as “dried grasses.” Inside, officers found 12 skids containing 2,700 kilos of dried poppy pods worth an estimated $5.454 million.

The next day, CBSA officers became suspicious when a second commercial container declared as “dried flowers” was awaiting clearance for entry into Canada. Officers found 26 skids totalling more than 4,500 kilos of dried poppy pods with an estimated street value of more than $9 million.

According to the CBSA, the pods are typically turned into doda.

Doda is still quite new on the Calgary horizon, emerging in the past couple of years.

But as the substance is sold and users become addicted, there is a fear that if doda is not curbed in this city, it will go the way of street drugs, attracting crime and gang involvement.

“Sure, they think they are working longer hours, they are trying to put the bread and butter on the table. But once they get addicted to this, just to feed their addiction alone, they won’t be doing anybody any good,” said Kang.

The drug, also known as dode, has caught the attention of Calgary police.

They are preparing a doda plan and within four to six months officers will be trained to identify the substance, said Staff Sgt. Darren Cave with the Calgary police drug unit.

A public awareness effort will warn people the drug is illegal and police will enforce the law.

“From what I know, it is addictive,” Cave said.

“If it’s being sold and there are quantities now starting to come into our country, there’s going to be a profit margin. Once you start getting into money, organized crime becomes involved and if organized crime becomes involved, there will always be that potential for violence.”

Cave said police believe they’ve identified a trend still in its infancy and the plan is meant to proactively get on top of the issue.

The drug has typically been peddled in small grocery stores, flower shops and at flea markets in Calgary, according to police.

Cave said it costs around $10 for 10 grams and brings a quick euphoria, then a longer state of calm.

The powder is brown-greyish in colour and is made from grinding down the husks and pods of opium poppies, he said.

The drug can take a significant toll on users and their families, said Balwinder Singh Kahlon, a founder of Drug Awareness Foundation Calgary, an anti-drug group.

Every few days, Kahlon says he gets a call from the family of someone hooked on doda. He recently heard of a person who went from spending $300 to $1,200 a month on the drug.

“The first time they take (doda), it will increase their working ability,” said Kahlon. “When they start using it . . . and next day they need more, next day they need more. Then they become addicted to it. It’s an addictive drug.”

There have been doda crackdowns by law enforcement in other parts of the country.

In August, Edmonton police seized more than 70 kilograms of dried opium poppy heads and charged one man possession for the purpose of trafficking.

With the recent law enforcement, the sale of doda may not be as open as it was just a few months ago in Calgary, said one community leader.

“It has gone underground, but I’m sure it’s there,” said Gurinder Singh, a director with Radio Sursangam in Calgary.

There has also been some confusion around the legality of doda. A Health Canada official says any derivative of the opium poppy is prohibited under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

Cave said it’s that confusion police want to tackle as they make Calgarians aware the drug is illegal.

For MLA Kang, there are two concerns if the doda problem is not handled properly: he fears addiction will lead to broken families and violence within the home, and he worries the sale of the substance might eventually become the territory of criminals.

“The criminal element is going to get involved in this,” he said.

“They’ll be smuggling it. You know the gang wars, right? And that’s what I’m afraid of.

“There will be gang wars on this, too, trying to control their territory, trying to control their turf.”

Of course, the Drug War has always been used as a tool to crack down on immigrant populations, the poor, and other undesirables; so I guess I should be that surprised. But what is amazing to me is how little the anti-drug propaganda has changed: with just a few minor edits – change the word ‘Asian’ to ‘Mexican’ and the word ‘doda’ to ‘marijuana’ – this story could have run in a Hearst Newspaper in the 30s.

Jeremiah Vandermeer
Jeremiah Vandermeer

Jeremiah Vandermeer is Chief of Operations of Cannabis Culture and Editor of Cannabis Culture Magazine & Pot TV.



  1. psychrx on

    While I agree that phrases like “those people” do sound bigoted, targeting doda is not inherently racist. Doda’s active ingredient is opium, which is illegal, therefore doda is illegal. Why should doda dealers be treated any different from opium dealers?

    FYI I am ultimately pro-legalization, I’m just pointing out here that it isn’t that they are targeting immigrant groups arbitrarily; doda contains an illegal drug, therefore they shouldn’t be treating it differently.

    Now the treatment of khat vs. caffeine – there is a cultural argument to be made there.

  2. Anonymous on

    So much for legalizing all drugs will stop all problems associated with prohibition.. this is opium ladies and gentlemen, one of thoise seed bearing herbs from the bible and it seems to fuck people up, with or without prohibition as a feature

  3. caber1 on

    Isn’t it ironic that we get the message of fear from the same authority figures here who would, without question, support our neighbors to the south as they facilitate the now well known fact that her ion production is at an all time high in American controlled Afghanistan.
    This is after the poppy fields had been virtually wiped out by the Taliban before the invasion.

  4. plink on

    It’s hardly stupid to prefer a mild stimulant over heroin, nor is it stupid to import something that is only just becoming illegal in a practical sense. What is stupid is throwing away the earths resources to fill your pocket, and trying to be funny by making a cunt out of yourself.

  5. Anonymous on

    Making tea from dried poppy pods is nothing new. Of course, if you were going to import narcotics you would be stupid to import tons of poppy pods when you could just import a few kilos of heroin instead, and you’d be stupid to buy ground pods and make yucky tea when you could just buy some black tar heroin and chase the dragon instead. Foreigners is so stupid.

  6. Brian Kerr on

    Doda is not a new drug. It is Opium.

    Every one should be able to grow Opium poppies for their medicinal value. Be warned though it is mostly Morphine and Codeine and they are addictive.

    Growing our own medicine is an absolute right. The prohibition on plants will fail.

  7. Anonymous on

    Caber1, they can’t just say that, because then they would be making a logical statement, which seems to be a challenge for government. Lies stir up more funding for law enforcement. It’s a tough economy and you have to create a job for yourself these days….so basically they’re providing their own job security. It’s becoming a huge problem, they don’t know when to stop.

  8. Caber1 on

    And rather than the police saying”look we haven’t been able to stop anybody from doing drugs, why are you talking to us?”
    they babble on about seizures and getting on top of it, blah blah blah.

    They should have said, “this is a potential health problem which you should discuss with your physician. We have seen some negative effects associated with this product and precautions need to be taken. Again, discuss this with a health professional. We are not your parents and we can’t save you from what you do to yourself.
    As an a adult we hope you look at this decision with critical thinking and every family has different situations so it would be unfair of us to comment on that.