Pubdate: Mon, 23 Oct 2017
Source: Daily Courier, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 The Okanagan Valley Group of Newspapers
Page: A6


Dealers who hand out drugs laced with fentanyl could face manslaughter
charges if their customers die, B.C. Minister of Public Safety Mike
Farnworth said recently.

It's a harsh measure, but nothing else seems to stem the waves of
poison that are killing people across the province. When even dead
customers are not enough to stop a callous retailer, society must put
its collective conscience where the dealer's is absent.

Farnworth's suggestion is not new. Other jurisdictions, fed up with
the senseless deaths, are coming down hard on those who, in the
minister's words, are "dealing death."

In early September, Ontario police charged a 34-year-old man with
manslaughter after a 46-year-old man died of a fentanyl overdose.

About the same time in that province, police charged two men with
manslaughter because they allegedly supplied drugs to a 23-yearold who
died of an overdose of heroin and fentanyl.

In late September, police charged a man in Alberta with manslaughter
for supplying drugs tainted with carfentanil that killed a man in a
hotel in Edson.

The charges come as the list of the dead grows. This province declared
a health emergency last year in response to the crisis. New data show
1,013 people died of overdoses between January and the end of August,
more than the 982 deaths in all of 2016, chief coroner Lisa Lapointe

Fentanyl was linked to more than 80 per cent of those deaths, compared
with 2012, when fentanyl was detected in just four per cent of
overdose deaths. The dealers who mix drugs are putting it into heroin,
cocaine, marijuana - almost anything that people will buy. Some
customers ask for it.

For dealers, fentanyl is cheap, and potent, which makes smuggling it
into the country from China easy and lowrisk. But the drug's potency
is what makes it so dangerous. A tiny amount can be lethal.

The mixing equipment they use to combine fentanyl with other drugs is
crude. Unlike pharmaceutical companies, drug dealers have no way to
control the levels of ingredients in their products. One pill might
have no fentanyl at all, while the next one has enough to kill a
person in moments.

Telling the difference with the naked eye is impossible.

But dealers know that. Not one of them could claim ignorance of the
dangers. Yet they continue to spread it among their customers. To most
people, their guilt is clear.

However, getting convictions would be hard, because while the dealers'
culpability is obvious to anyone with a normal moral compass, the
letter of the law is not so easily satisfied.

Those who oppose manslaughter charges say that many dealers are
addicts, trying to feed their own habits. They say that charging them
criminalizes what is really a health problem and ignores others who
are equally culpable, such as pharmaceutical companies and doctors who
overprescribed opioids.

Others say our inability to control the epidemic is further evidence
that we should follow the example of Portugal and decriminalize drugs
for personal use.

But there is a difference between those who use drugs and those who
deal them, especially the large-scale distributors of substances that
damage minds and bodies - and kill. Those people don't have a health
problem; they have a conscience problem.

Yes, we have to treat addiction and try to prevent it by dealing with
the social and personal issues that lead to it.

But as with any health problem, anyone who knowingly hands out poison
in the guise of medicine should be punished.

If the poison kills, they should go to prison.

- - Victoria Times Colonist
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