This editorial by Don Bell was published in Crain's New York Business on June 19, 2019. Bell, who is a 30-year veteran of law enforcement and border protection in Canada, was chief superintendent of the Ontario Provincial Police, and a director of intelligence and enforcement for the Canada Border Services Agency.
Canada Can't Be New York's Medicine Cabinet: Legislative Proposal Would Open Floodgates to Prescription-Drug Crime
I’ve been in law enforcement and border protection in Canada for more than 30 years, retiring as a chief superintendent of the Ontario Provincial Police and a director of intelligence and enforcement for the Canada Border Services Agency. I led the fight to combat organized crime, gangs and drug trafficking. It was my job to determine how criminals exploit loopholes to bring deadly illicit drugs across the border.
When I see the New York Legislature working to establish a wholesale prescription drug importation program from “one or more” foreign countries for the purpose of addressing rising costs (a legitimate concern), I see a gigantic loophole that criminals will pounce on to traffic counterfeit drugs into the state. Criminal organizations are already the benefactor of importation loopholes, as evidenced by the devastating opioid crisis.
This is not theory, but fact and unfortunately already reality. Rogue internet pharmacies "flying" the Canadian brand already lure unsuspecting American consumers. These illegal websites transship counterfeit drugs via international mail to New York through our three main postal sites: Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto. These rogue websites with no nexus to Canada will rapidly take advantage of New York’s importation program.
While I can personally attest to the excellence, commitment and the collaborative relationship of Canadian and New York law enforcement, I can tell you with certainty that Canada is not prepared to protect New York from imported counterfeit drugs. Canadian health authorities, border services and law enforcement are neither resourced nor structured to guarantee the safety of the transnational drug shipments that importation would authorize.
Counterfeits are already flooding into New York, even without the legalization of importation. Just this year, the Food and Drug Administration reported the seizure of a half a ton of counterfeit drugs interdicted at JFK airport's International Mail Facility in just one week. The influx of such dangerous products will increase substantially if a statewide wholesale prescription drug importation program were implemented.
I can appreciate the sense of urgency and the appeal of short-term solutions to complex issues. However, attempting to implement a prescription drug importation program which has already failed many times in other states gives established gangs the business opportunity of a lifetime.
The Legislature should step away from this dangerous proposal, which will endanger the public safety of both of our countries and further challenge the already stretched resources of Canadian and New York law enforcement.