It has been a while since Iʻve written anything here and in the meantime Iʻve been elected to serve on our County Council – the local legislative and oversight body for our island of Hawaiʻi.
Yesterday the Council received a presentation by the narcotics unit of our police force on the presence of fentanyl in our communities. It was a grim discussion of course. The lethal dose of fentanyl is so minute that the police fear for their lives simply investigating crime scenes involving drugs of any kind. They asked for better protective gear to wear in such situations – basically hazmat suits.
The police officer in charge of the narcotics unit described how most fentanyl is manufactured in China, then shipped to Mexico to smuggled over the border into the US, and then brought into Hawaiʻi. A lethal doze of fentanyl is 2 milligrams and the amount of fentanyl apprehended by the police in the last year was enough to kill every resident of the island. And that is just what was apprehended.
It is a sad and horrifying situation, but it is also a strange kind of supply chain to contemplate – this axis of China and Mexico in supplying a drug of such potency to illicit drug consumers in the US. (Not all of whom sign on for fentanyl, as it is increasingly used to lace every other “recreational” drug, even relatively innocuous drugs such as marijuana.)
Chemical analysis of seized fentanyl can be linked back to a particular province in China, we were told. This degree of specificity – this tracking back into the Chinese province – makes me think of the Opium War in of the mid 19th century in which England used military force to maintain its market for opium in China, bombing Chinaʻs port cities with warships, seizing Hong Kong, and even attacking the capital city of Beijing , including the desecration and occupation of its imperial palaces. The Chinese government of the time was weak and corrupt. Civil wars in which tens of millions of people perished attempting to overthrow, or defend, the imperial order were happening contemporarily. It was a bad situation, made worse by the English and French military forcing the Chinese to legalize the opium trade.
This is not to justify the manufacture and export of illegal fentanyl in China, but the echoes of history are hard to ignore. It is not impossible, given the deterioration of relations between China and the Us, that the over-production of fentanyl is tacitly condoned. That there is even a bit of fentanyl war being waged. It is a strange world we live in, truly.