Remember that week last November when Premier Christy Clark went to London to meet the Queen and then to Ottawa for a summit on the fentanyl crisis?
Health Minister Terry Lake and then Solicitor General Mike Morris were tasked with running interference for Clark, after she caught senior bureaucrats, cops and doctors off-guard with these Nov. 17 comments: “Regulating marijuana is even more important now, when we’re finding fentanyl in marijuana. Vancouver Police did a major seizure.”
Vancouver Police had vaguely claimed in March 2015 that fentanyl was showing up in marijuana, but that had never been confirmed. Documents obtained under freedom of information by theBreaker show that Clark’s comments in the nation’s capital set-off a behind-the-scenes flurry as government spinners sought to craft a coherent message on Nov. 18.
Wrote Deputy Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry at 7:55 a.m.: “…we don’t know if fentanyl is in cannabis vs. people taking both. We do know most deaths involve multiple substances.”
VPD media spokesman Sgt. Brian Montague said via email at 8:23 a.m.: “I can’t speak for other police departments and I can’t say that fentanyl has not, is not or couldn’t be placed in marijuana, but I can tell you that the VPD has not seized marijuana that has been tested and shown that it has been laced with fentanyl.”
B.C. Director of Police Services Clayton Pecknold added his voice at 8:28 a.m. He copied a statement from Masset RCMP on Nov. 8 that said the Mounties had “reason to believe that there is marijuana available for sale in Masset that is laced with fentanyl.”
(RCMP North District Cpl. Madonna Saunderson told theBreaker in February that “RCMP have been unable to corroborate, either through investigations or drug seizures, of the presence of fentanyl in marijuana.”)
Dr. Perry Kendall, the province’s Chief Medical Officer, chimed-in at 11:18 a.m.: “How would the police, or anyone for that matter, know that fentanyl was in cannabis absent any confirmation through lab testing? And had testing occurred we would have been informed of it wouldn’t we?”
The government, through contractor LifeLabs, said Feb. 1 that it found carfentanil, which is 100 times more powerful a than fentanyl, “in the illegal drug supply in the Lower Mainland and being ingested,” based on 57 of 1,766 urine tests in January. It did not say whether it was found laced with marijuana.
There were 922 deaths by illicit drug overdose in 2016 in B.C., up from 513 in 2015.
Kendall declared a public health emergency on April 14, 2016.