September 20th, 2019

Police chief wants harsher punishment for fentanyl dealers

By Gillian Slade on December 16, 2016.

Tim Petro (left), Health and Safety Coordinator with Medicine Hat Police Service, and Sgt. Tony Schmidt, with the MHPS Professional Development and Training, display a kit that will be distributed to each officer should they come into contact with fentanyl or carfentanyl. Sgt. Schmidt holds a Narcan nasal spray that can be used to reverse a fentanyl overdose. --NEWS PHOTO EMMA BENNETT

gslade@medicinehatnews.com  @MHNGillianSlade

Drug traffickers selling fentanyl and carfentanil are dealing with a lethal substance and should be punished accordingly, says Medicine Hat’s police chief.

It is no longer about some drug that gives kicks and is addictive. It is now something with the potential to kill, said Chief Andy McGrogan.

“There should be a strong deterrent against people who sell fentanyl illegally. We know it’s killing people so if we know that we’ve got people out there selling stuff that has a great potential to kill somebody, then we should be dealing with them in the most stringent of manners,” said McGrogan.

If there was a food company selling something with the potential to kill five per cent of consumers there would be tremendous legal ramifications, including criminal negligence causing death, said McGrogan. He believes the federal government’s approach to harm reduction is good but tougher sanctions against traffickers is needed.

“If you are going to sell stuff that is going to kill people, they’re going to pay the price and they’re going to pay big time,” said McGrogan.

Edmonton Police Service announced Oct. 26 it was laying a manslaughter charge in relation to a fentanyl overdose death. Autopsy and toxicology results concluded Szymon Kalich, 33, died from a fentanyl overdose.

“Homicide detectives concluded an extensive investigation and charged Jordan Yarmey, 25, with manslaughter in relation to Kalich’s death on Monday, Oct. 24, 2016,” reads the press release.

In March, the Calgary Herald reported that a year after “Roxanne Blood and Timothy Eagle Speaker were killed by fentanyl overdoses, leaving behind four children,” a man was in court facing rare charges of manslaughter for allegedly providing them with the deadly drug.

Proving that someone knew they were trafficking a lethal substance poses some challenges, says Jim Groom, co-ordinator for the criminal justice program at Medicine Hat College. He says negligence would have to be shown on the part of the trafficker or that they had knowledge of cause and effect that would result in a person’s death.

“The intent for manslaughter is less than for a homicide but still requires a significant understanding of the consequence. They would have to perceive that death would be the end result,” said Groom.

We are told it only takes a few grains of carfentanil to kill someone, said Groom. Did the trafficker know what ingredients were in the pill?

“The trouble of course is you can have 10 people taking fentanyl and only one passes away. Then it becomes, how did they know one person would react this way or had this bad reaction,” said Groom.

People who have not been taking drugs for a while will lose their tolerance for the drug, and if they relapse, even taking the same dosage can be deadly, said Groom.

“It is horrendously complicated. It would probably fit into the manslaughter mandate but it becomes really subjective,” said Groom, who gave the following example:

An individual punches someone who then falls, knocks their head on the concrete and dies.

“They are still culpable of that even though they couldn’t perceive that that was going to be the only consequence. It was a possible consequence,” said Groom. “In that case they are held accountable.”

A lot of it has to be determined by a jury, not even by case law, said Groom.

McGrogan says the confiscated proceeds from crime would also help to cover the cost of the opioid crisis.

“We have that civil forfeiture act; we should take everything they have.”

This week the federal government introduced legislation that would make it easier to establish more supervised injection sites, enhanced border control to inspect packages weighing less than 30 grams, and restrictions on the import of pill presses and encapsulators, two machines commonly used in the production of illicit drugs.
“We are pleased to see the federal government has moved on our request to prohibit the unregistered import of pill presses. This national action is something our government requested in November 2015 and again in April of this year. This proposed legislation will make it more difficult for organized crime groups to distribute large quantities of fentanyl and other opioids,” said Kathleen Ganley, minister of justice and solicitor general.

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