China's move to make all fentanyl varieties controlled substances applauded by Alberta police
'Any time we can take disruptive action, it's a win in the short term'
China said Monday it would begin regulating all fentanyl-related drugs as a class of controlled substances, a development that's being welcomed by the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT).
Until now, Chinese vendors have evaded criminal prosecution by selling drugs that mimic the deadly drug. Since they're not covered by drugs laws, these variants are technically legal to sell.
China is now bringing in a blanket ban of all fentanyl-type drugs which is meant to close that loop hole.
Law enforcement agencies have long suspected Chinese exporters are key sources of fentanyl flowing into Canada and the United States.
The new regulations come into effect on May 1.
"It is an encouraging step in controlling the flow of fentanyl into the country and onto our streets," said Mike Tucker, a spokesperson for ALERT, which is a specialized group of police investigators that targets organized crime.
"Any time we can take disruptive action, it's a win in the short term."
Still, Tucker says there's also indications that Mexican drug cartels are another source of fentanyl in Canada, though it's unknown if they're making it or just selling it.
He says local traffickers will always find a way to import the drug.
Monday's announcement from China's ministry of public security, national health commission and national medical products administration makes good on a pledge Chinese President Xi Jinping made to U.S. President Donald Trump during the G20 summit in Argentina late last year.
At the time, Trump said China's new regulations could be "a game changer" for the United States, where tens of thousands of people die annually from opioid overdoses.
The quarterly Alberta Opioid Response Surveillance Report released in February said 582 Albertans died of fentanyl-related overdoses between Jan. 1 and Nov. 11, 2018.
China already controls 25 variants of fentanyl, plus two precursors used to make the drug. Data from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration have shown that when China bans a variant of fentanyl, seizures of that analog in the United States fall.
With files from Associated Press and the CBC's Reid Southwick