It was confirmed this past week that 40 year old Brenden Murphy of Cambridge was in possession of 17 grams of Fentanyl when he was pulled over for a traffic stop in October.
A 0.25 gram dose of Fentanyl is enough to kill an adult. Murphy had enough in his possession to kill 68,000 people.
From January to June of 2018, 2066 people across Canada died from fentanyl overdoses. Hospital visits due to overdose have increased 27% this year. The impact on an already stressed Health Care system is overwhelming.
According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), 21.3 million prescriptions for opioids were dispensed in the country last year: 575 prescriptions for every 1,000 Canadians. A percentage of those prescriptions go missing and end up on the streets.
Police and Public Health Units have been ringing the alarm about the dangers of Fentanyl being laced into other drugs and because it has no smell or taste, a user would never know until it was too late. They have urged drug users to take precautions to protect themselves from overdosing. The Insite Safe Injection Facility in Vancouver offered Fentanyl test strips to onsite users and found that during a one month span, 86% of all drugs tested positive for Fentanyl.
So where is all this Fentanyl coming from? Over the past year, numerous arrests have been made across the country for possession of quantities of fentanyl ranging from 10 grams to 10 kilos. In Montreal, half a million doses of Fentanyl were seized. A Kirkland woman was arrested with 1043 fentanyl patches in her possession that had been shipped in from Germany. A Canada wide warrant was issued for Michael Christopher Wozney in October, after an investigation proved that he was importing Fentanyl. Fahad Huissan, the older brother of Danforth shooter Faisal Huissan overdosed in 2017 and police discovered 42 Kilos of Carfentanyl at the Pickering home where he had been staying after being released on bail. Two Pharmacists were arrested and charged with stealing Fentanyl. One, a million dollars worth, and the other for faking a robbery to cover up a Fentanyl trafficking ring.
Other recent investigation find links to a powerful Chinese gang importing the drug.
What can we do? The numbers of overdoses has only increased since last year. All the harm reduction education, fentanyl test strips, noxalone kits, and the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act are having little effect.
MPs recently discussed how Portugal and Miami have implemented radical policies and how we can follow their example. They too include harm reduction education, and outreach that includes transferring criminal sentences for users to rehabilitation programs. It would seem that the real issue is not the users but the suppliers from small time dealers to importers to international manufacturers.
In Brantford, Ontario, a drug dealer was charged with manslaughter after a man who purchased what he thought was cocaine, overdosed on Fentanyl.
Andrew Earl Allison, 35, was originally charged with manslaughter but he pleaded guilty in Ontario Court to the lesser charge of criminal negligence causing death. He also pleaded guilty to trafficking in cocaine and fentanyl and possession of crack cocaine and fentanyl for trafficking.
“Fentanyl is, without a doubt, the most dangerous of drugs on the street today,” Justice Colette Good said Monday in sentencing Allison. “It should only be administered under strict medical supervision to patients who are already opioid tolerant. And. when someone is not an opioid user, death can occur, which is exactly what happened to Mr. Mirco.”
When Allison was arrested last year, it was the first time Brantford police charged a drug dealer with manslaughter in an overdose death.
While it’s too early for the courts to have established a sentencing range for fentanyl trafficking and deaths, the Ontario Court of Appeal has indicated penitentiary time is appropriate for even a first conviction.
Allison’s sentence is believed to be the longest to be handed down in Canada for a fentanyl death.