Ont. shop owner charged with selling addictive poppy derivative

By Potter · Jan 4, 2009 · Updated Jan 4, 2009 · ·
  1. Potter
    Ont. shop owner charged with selling addictive poppy derivative


    Last Updated: Tuesday, December 23, 2008 | 10:42 PM ET CBC News

    A popular but addictive preparation made from parts of the poppy flower has been found to contain enough illegal ingredients to sustain criminal charges against some of those accused of selling it.

    Available for as little as $20 in some flea markets and smaller grocery stores in South Asian neighbourhoods, doda is made by grinding the husk and seeds of the poppy flower — the same plant that produces opium. It's often taken with tea or water and produces a quick high followed by a sense of calm.

    While charges against those who sell doda have proved difficult to uphold without scientific proof that the substance contains opium, a Brampton, Ont., shop owner is facing jail time for allegedly selling doda that Health Canada says tested positive for codeine and morphine. Both are opiates and considered controlled substances under Canadian law.

    Police have laid charges in relation to doda before, but say this is the first time they are likely to stick after Health Canada delivered lab certificates to substantiate the accusations earlier this week.

    Ashwani Bhangal, owner of Brampton's Nath Meat and Chicken Deli, has been charged with three counts of drug trafficking and one count of drug possession for the purpose of trafficking after Peel Regional Police made a large bust there and at a separate address in late October.

    More than $10,000 worth of opium pods were seized, as well as more than 38 kilograms of suspected doda. Fourteen samples of the substance were sent to Health Canada's drug analysis service for testing.

    "We have seized doda previously, sent samples off to Health Canada, however we were unable to get a certificate indicating that it had any opiates in it, therefore we couldn't substantiate a charge in court," said Peel Regional Police Const. Wayne Patterson.

    "To my knowledge, this is the first time Peel Regional Police has gotten a positive certificate for the drug doda," he said.

    Bhangal, 42, is scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 2. He could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted of the charges.

    Doctors have warned that doda, which is used by some taxi drivers, factory workers and truck drivers in the South Asian community to help them stay awake, is as damaging as other illegal narcotics.

    Brampton Coun. Vicky Dhillon agrees that doda is dangerous and addictive, and has been leading the charge against the opium derivative in his community.

    "This was spreading into high schools, before hard working people were using this, like taxi drivers, but now it was spreading into high schools," Dhillon said.

    "Everybody is gonna be happy today when they hear about [the charge.] This is a new development to stop this drug."

    One teenager who lives just outside Toronto said he went from using one spoonful a day to consuming the drug morning and night.

    "I don't like being normal. I like being high," the 18-year-old told CBC News, which has agreed not to use his name to protect his family's reputation.

    His mother wants police to lay more charges against those who sell doda and put a plug on the supply in Canada.

    "There are so many families like us who are very upset. I don't know why people are selling this stupid thing in the market."

    Health Canada outlaws any substance containing opium poppy or its derivatives, although does not list doda, as it is called, as a banned drug — something authorities say they hope will change if the court chooses to make a conviction.

    Last Updated: Tuesday, December 23, 2008 | 10:42 PM ET CBC News

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