A Brampton man convicted of selling doda will likely soon be spending weekends in jail followed by house arrest for also selling opium to undercover officers.
But it is his conviction for selling doda — often described as a poor man’s heroin — that makes this case interesting.
Ashwani Bhangal, 44, will be sentenced by Justice Bruce Durno on Sept. 10. A joint submission calls for the married father of two daughters to serve 90 days in jail on weekends for selling doda, followed by 20 months of house arrest for trafficking opium.
It is believed to be the first time anyone in Greater Toronto, perhaps even Canada, has been convicted of selling the product, which police, medical experts and community workers say has become a serious problem in Brampton’s Punjabi community, especially among truck drivers, labourers and taxi drivers. Originally used mainly by adults between ages 20 and 40, it is increasingly being consumed by high school students, court heard Wednesday.
Doda is made from poppy husks and seeds which are grounded into powder and consumed mostly with tea or water.
Peel police stumbled on the doda sales during undercover buys at Bhangal’s meat shop in October 2008. Investigators found a person using a blender to turn poppy pods into powder, Peel drug officer Mark Haywood told court. At today’s street prices, the 3.5 kg of doda seized from Bhangal’s store would fetch $4,500, he said.
His arrest sparked public warnings about it being illegal in Canada and led to other GTA arrests and millions of dollars in doda being seized.
Court heard the effects of doda range from calmness and relaxation to sleeplessness, lethargy, itching, slowed breathing and nausea. High enough doses can lead to death.
Federal Crown Surrinder Ajula said doda users become addicted for life and its consumption devastates families.
Dr. Steven Black, an expert on opium addiction, said doda users suffer the same kind of withdrawal symptoms as heroin users.
Opium poppies are illegal under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, but poppy seeds are not inherently illegal. The Act states any derivative of the poppy flower is also illegal, including the poppy pods used in doda.
July 28, 2010
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