Law enforcement and treatment professionals discuss drug trade, addiction and open borders

Michael Bielawski/TNR

PUBLIC CONCERN: A public forum on drug abuse in Vermont was held Monday night at St. Johnsbury Middle School in St. Johnsbury.

ST. JOHNSBURY — About a dozen law enforcement and drug treatment professionals met Monday evening at St. Johnsbury Middle School to discuss the state of the drug trade, drug addiction and where drugs are coming from that ultimately end up in Vermont.

One message heard by the few dozen people who came out for the event was that the vast majority of hard drugs are coming from outside the country.

“With hard drugs, it’s pretty much all coming from outside of the country,” said Shawn McGraw, supervisory special agent for Immigration and Customs Enforcement for the Department of Homeland Security. “There is some marijuana that some states are manufacturing that is probably shipping around the country, but the hard drugs, it’s coming from outside the country.”

A lot of it is crossing an open southern border. McGray shared his experience from the early 1990s when he visited El Paso, Texas.

“I could not believe how wide-open the border was,” he said. “And we had more drug cases than we could handle.”

He worked near the border for nine years, dealing primarily with marijuana, but nowadays there are more hard drugs passing through.

“I could never have imagined that we would have gone from the marijuana situation to what we see now,” he said. “States are legalizing marijuana and we are reporting huge loads of cocaine, heroin, and fentanyl that are again pouring through the southwest border.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jon Ophardt added that it’s not all coming from the south.

“We have been seeing a large insurgent of postal delivery from UPS, FedEx, from overseas, including from Europe. So, traditional importation methods across the southern border are still very much prevalent, but that’s not the only way that it’s getting into the country,” he said.

“I prosecuted a case a little while ago which made major news because it was a sled full of Xanax being dragged south across the northern border, so we do still have hard drugs that come south as well, it isn’t simply drugs coming up from Mexico.”

Ophardt said oftentimes the drugs from Canada are coming in from China. He said that’s one of the big routes for fentanyl — an opiate 30-50 times more potent than heroin — is coming into the country.

He spoke about the growing epidemic of methamphetamine as well. He said that the “bottle-shake” method of creating meth within the states is fast-fading as more potent forms of the drug are emerging from Mexico.

U.S. Attorney for Vermont Christina Nolan also spoke to this.

“Methamphetamine is one of the scariest drugs there is,” she said. “It is extremely pure these days because it’s coming from Mexico — it’s no longer manufactured in these amateur-labs locally; it is coming from the cartels and it’s incredibly pure. And people on meth are violent, delusional — they stay up for nights and nights on end and they abandon their families.”

Nolan added that while opioids grab most of the headlines, stimulants are quietly slipping under the radar.

“We do have an opioid crisis, and opioids are responsible for the larger share of deaths in Vermont and across the country, but please be aware of the stimulants,” she said. “Crack cocaine, powdered cocaine, methamphetamine — really every kind of drug that can send a person down the wrong path — those are making a comeback in Vermont.”

St. Johnsbury Chief of Police Timothy Page discussed how the fight against drug abuse is going locally in St. Johnsbury.  He said he understands that the process leading to making an arrest can be taxing.

“I want to note that the guys and girls in my department are some hardworking guys and girls,” he said. “We get calls all the time about problem areas and problem buildings, and people know that drugs are being sold there. We know that drugs are being sold there, and I know that you’re frustrated when you see the same things occurring there time and time again.”

Page said there’s a system that must be followed.

“It takes time, and I have to ask for your patience in that regard,” he said.

A discussion also was held on the treatment and recovery portion of the drug crisis. One of the panelists to take this on was Cynthia Boyd, executive director of the Kingdom Recovery Center. One point she emphasized was that the addict needs to want to take the initiative.

“If people don’t want to get well then they are not going to get well,” she said. “And you can’t force somebody into treatment; we can’t force them into recovery. It’s going to be when they are ready, and pretty much on their terms — as much as we know how badly they need it.”

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Image courtesy of Michael Bielawski/TNR

4 thoughts on “Law enforcement and treatment professionals discuss drug trade, addiction and open borders

  1. This is so awesome, people are addressing as major problem, publicly discussing it.

    So question for you, everybody in the entire state knows Vermont has a serious drug problem. We were the leader in 2014 of addicted births per capita.

    Where is Sanders, Leahy, Welch, Scott, Mitzi, and Ashe? Where is the Democratic Party, and even the Republican party on this?

    Hello!!!!!!!! Is anybody home? this is one of the most pressing, crushing problems in our state. Where is the leadership??????

    Affordability, School Funding, Drugs, that would be my platform, for anyone else to adopt or co-opt. We need all hands on deck. fortunately these are all man made problems, so is there was a will, say even 12-20 American loving Democrats and Conservatives we could turn this state around.

    Affordability, School Funding, Drugs.

  2. Two thoughts: Maybe, just maybe the wall is a great idea even though Bernie, Leahy and dear Peter Welch are all opposed, and two, one can’t help but wonder if this addiction problem could be related to the legalization of marajuana in Vermont is a contributing factor.

  3. I am sure the reason our 3 stooges and others in Washington do not want a wall is because they want the citizens of this country that are already sheep to be doped up sheep then we can go to slaughter without a fight. Our Government is a mess and we all know it. Our kids and our society are succumbing to these drugs. They talk a good talk so it makes everyone feel all warm and fuzzie. I say build the wall and get rid of this problem once in for all. Maybe we need a wall north and south. The Democrats both in DC are more worried about wasting tax payer money on railing President Trump than tending to issues that really matter. I hope people are paying attention so we can make a change this coming year

  4. Didn’t the 3 stooges assure us there was no problem with a OPEN BORDER? That we didn’t need a WALL to stop the influx of gimmigrants and drugs. If they can give jail terms to persons who lied to democrat Kangaroo Kourts, why can’t we give jail terms to those we pay TO NOT LIE to us about the state of National affairs?

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