Emerging Issues Bulletin | Drug Offences in Canada

Emerging Issues Bulletin | Drug Offences in Canada

Drug Offences in Canada -- Emerging Issues Bulletin

Issue #2, June 2016

Bruce A. MacFarlane, Robert J. Frater, Croft Michaelson

The Emerging Issues Bulletin in Drug Offences in Canada, 4th edition is intended to provide updates on notable drug policy, legislative and enforcement issues. These are issues that may have started to be addressed in case law in trial courts, or reflected in legislation just passed or being contemplated, or concerning new enforcement techniques by the police. By focusing on percolating issues, it is hoped that the section may alert practitioners to emerging legal challenges.

This Bulletin addresses several key developments in the area of drug offences law, including the escalating threat of fentanyl and W-18, the rise of Internet-based drug importation schemes, and the April 2016 United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs.

A sample from the most recent Bulletin is excerpted here. To continue reading from Drug Offences in Canada, 4th edition, sign up at the bottom of the screen for a free 14-day trial of
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#2 – Escalating threat of Fentanyl and W-18 in Canada

The threat level posed by Fentanyl and W-18 escalated as we moved toward the second half of 2016. Authorities in various legal, legislative and health sectors have moved quickly in an attempt to stem the tide of overdose deaths on downtown streets and in the suburbs.

Illegal introduction of these two drugs into Canada is frighteningly simple. It is manufactured overseas, sent by courier to Canada, where the white crystalline powder is diluted with buffing agents, cut with other drugs and sold on the street disguised as heroin or pressed into tablets and sold as a drug such as OxyContin or oxycodone. Fentanyl and W-18 are both odorless, tasteless and colorless, and a few grains can place the user in severe jeopardy. Both are deadly.

More than 308 opiate overdose deaths have been recorded in B.C. during the first five months of 2016 – over one-half of which involved Fentanyl.[1] If this trend continues, health officials fear that the number of deaths this year could approach or exceed 800 in British Columbia alone.[2] In April, 2016 B.C.’s Chief Health Officer took the unprecedented step of declaring that a public health emergency existed in that province – something normally reserved for a contagious disease outbreak. That will facilitate the widening of information that can be gathered in cases of overdoses – not just deaths – in order to warn users, provide assistance to them, and expand the use of opiate substitution programs and Naloxone antidote kits.[3]

In January, 2016 Health Canada cleared the way for the provinces to provide easy access to Naloxone, and British Columbia made it available without prescription in March.[4]

[1] Andrea Woo, “Fentanyl a factor in more than half of fatal overdoses in B.C.”, The Globe and Mail, June 9, 2016; available online at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/drug-deaths-up-dramatically-in-bc-this-year-but-stats-offer-ray-of-optimism/article30373096/

[2] Erin Ellis and Bethany Lindsay, “B.C. declares public health emergency after fentanyl overdoses kill 200 people in three months”, [“Ellis”], April 15, 2016, National Post. Available online at: http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/b-c-declares-public-health-emergency-after-fentanyl-overdoses-kill-200-people-in-three-months ; Nick Eagland, “It feels like murder” the devastating impact of fentanyl in B.C., May 30, 2016, Vancouver Sun, available online at: http://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/it-feels-like-murder-the-devastating-impact-of-fentanyl-in-b-c

[3] Ellis, above.

[4] Eric Andrew-Gee, “Alberta widens access to life-saving fentanyl antidote”, The Globe and Mail, May 11, 2016 [“Eric Andrew-Gee”]; available online at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/alberta/alberta-making-life-saving-fentanyl-antidote-available-without-prescription/article29985470/

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