Take a hard line against fentanyl dealers

Take a hard line against fentanyl dealers

Judicial system must be part of the solution

A judge at B.C.’s top court is calling for stronger sentences for people who sell fentanyl. We agree.

In a ruling earlier this month, the B.C. Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal to increase the six-month sentence of a 59-year-old man who was caught with drugs, including 2.6 grams of the deadly opioid.

The Crown had argued that the sentence wasn’t enough, but the effort was denied, since fentanyl-related deaths were not as prevalent at the time of the offence. However, the three judges agreed the court should identify a higher sentencing range because of the current “public health crisis associated with illicit fentanyl.”

The judge who dissented in the judgment, Justice Mary Newbury, called for a sentence of 18 to 36 months – or possibly even higher.

Frank Stanley Smith, a first-time offender, tried to sell drugs to an undercover cop in 2015 on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. The current sentencing range for first-time offenders is six to 12 months, the same as heroin.

It’s no secret what a toll deadly opioids like fentanyl have taken on our local streets. Provincewide, there were 922 overdose deaths, with about half of those linked to fentanyl.

On Vancouver Island, 153 people died of overdoses in 2016 compared with 62 the year before. The Island saw another 39 overdose deaths through the first two months of 2017.

For the central Island region that includes Duncan, there were 55 overdose deaths in 2016 and 16 more the first two months of this year.

The statistics are concerning, more so when we consider that we’re adding up deaths.

This crisis has motivated people and policy-makers. We’re seeing a multi-faceted response – an array of measures that taken individually, will make a small difference and taken as a whole, a more significant difference.

The feds recently announced an additional $10 million for British Columbia’s fight, along with $65 million nationwide over the next five years.

Our judicial system has to be part of the solution. We need to take a thoughtful approach, of course. But we should look at taking a harder line on those selling the stuff.