Court dismisses fentanyl hysteria argument, affirms jail time for Vancouver drug dealer

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      A B.C. Court of Appeal has upheld the sentence of a drug dealer caught with fentanyl-laced heroin.

      The court rejected Joseph Ryan Lloyd’s contention that a trial judge erred in concluding that fentanyl was an aggravating factor.

      Lloyd was sentenced to six years in jail, but he believes he deserves only half of that time.

      Llyod submitted that the judge was displaying “fentanyl hysteria”.

      As recounted in the appeal court’s oral reasons for judgment posted online Monday (April 15), Lloyd argued that fentanyl is “not an inherently dangerous drug because it is used for medicinal purposes”.

      However, the court rejected Lloyd’s suggestion of “fentanyl hysteria” as “out of line”, and devoid of merit.

      “The judge’s concern about the fentanyl epidemic is well-supported in the materials she had before her and the authorities she considered,” according to the oral reasons by justice Sunni Stromberg-Stein. “Her comments are a recognition that fentanyl is a highly lethal drug when used in non-medical circumstances and of the resulting public health crisis rocking the country in recent years.”

      Justices Daphne Smith and Richard Goepel agreed with Stromberg-Stein’s reasons for judgment dated April 11, 2019.

      Fentanyl is a powerful pain medication associated with fatal overdoses of illicit drugs.

      Based on a report by the B.C. Coroners Service, fentanyl was involved in 87 percent of overdose deaths in B.C. last year.

      In 2018, there were 1,510 drug overdose deaths in the province.

      According the court of appeal, Lloyd maintained that the judge should not have treated the presence of fentanyl as an aggravating factor because he did not know it was in the heroin he possessed.

      “I agree with the judge that whether Mr. Lloyd specifically knew that the heroin he was selling contained fentanyl, either he should have known or he was wilfully blind and was willing to take the risk of selling fentanyl in the heroin,” Stromberg-Stein stated.

      Stromberg-Stein recalled that the trial judge noted that Lloyd testified in a 2013 case about the “dangers inherent in drug dealing and consumption”.

      According to Stromberg-Stein, “an offender assumes the risk of the presence of fentanyl when selling illicit drugs”.

      Lloyd was caught by Vancouver police in possession of heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine “on the periphery of Vancouver’s notorious Downtown Eastside” in September 2016.

      The man fought police before he was taken into custody. A police officer suffered a broken rib during the encounter.