Many years ago, the R.J Reynolds tobacco company got into trouble with its Joe Camel campaign, which featured a cool cartoon camel in human clothing who like to smoke. The ad campaign was controversial because it seemed to target kids. The American Medical Association tried to get the company to shut down Joe Camel after a study showed as many six-year-olds knew that Joe Camel was associated with cigarettes as Mickey Mouse was associated with Disney. Sales statistics backup up a huge increase in underage sales of cigarettes that were also disproportionately camels. Tobacco company documents were made public that revealed they were indeed targeting kids. Finally, in 1997, they terminated the campaign and settled to the tune of $10 million dollars to be targeted to teen smoking prevention efforts.
The heroin industry in Hartford seems to be taking a similar tack these days and it is quite disconcerting. Among the brands to hit the streets in recent weeks are Bugs Bunny, Hello Kitty, Dino babies and Smurfs to go along with the previously issued Casper, the friendly ghost.
Spring is here and the city parks are littered with heroin bags, the small glassine envelopes that contain the powdered heroin and sell for $4 or $5 a bag. The users sit on the park benches and tear the bags open and snort the fine powder or go down to the pavilion by the pond and squat against the brick pillars, and pour the power into a small cooker or metal spoon, squirt saline water over it, and then heat the mixture to dissolve it and kill the bacteria. They draw it up in one cc syringes, tie a USB cord around their arm, and hit any vein they can find that is not already sclerosed or ulcered. The bags, forgotten, are carried on the wind. Sometimes the users seek the privacy of the Port-o-potty, and a daily check of them reveals the latest brands, cast onto the floor or tossed in the urinal.
I watch a six-year-old run across the playground and enter a Port-o-potty. I wonder what she will do when she sees the bag with Bugs on it? Will she pick it up? On the off chance there is still a few grains of powder in it, will she taste it? or has her mother already warned her? Stay away from those bags. Don’t pick up any syringes. Don’t talk to strangers stay in school. Study hard. Don’t do drugs. There’s a better world waiting for us all.
But this is the world we live in, and I think we need to set some ground rules. I propose we call all the heroin dealers together for a pow-wow in the park. No cops. Listen here, we say. It is not our business to arrest you and put you behind bars – that’s the police’s job. But you need to show some respect for our community here. If you want to name your product Strike Dead, Killing Time or Biohazard, go right ahead. You want to call it Nightmare of Elm Street, the Purge or Friday the 13th, be our guest. Call it Cobra, Scorpion or Black Widow, have at it. But Hello Kitty is out of bounds. Same deal with Bugs Bunny, Foghorn Leghorn, Kermit the Frog, and Barney. Got it.
And while we are it, here are some other rules to think about it if you have any decency.
- Stop putting fentanyl into brown powder. The folks who don’t want fentanyl are staying away from the white powder because Fentanyl is white and they don’t want to do. You pretend to sell them fine brown powder by spiking it with fentanyl, shame on you. You already got them addicted, they have to have their hits, at least let them have the option to avoid sudden death. Danger seekers can continue to run their risks with white heroin, but please there has to be some boundaries to your deviousness.
- If you are going to sell Carfentanil, you can only brand it as follows. “Beware…Carfentanil,” Elephant Killer, or Lifetime Supply.
- Offer Narcan to all your customers, or offer them a safe place where they can shoot up under the watchful eyes of one your boys. If they OD, your boy can give them Narcan, and call 911. In our state there is no liability for calling 911 for an overdose, unless you are selling drugs at the scene. Get a lawyer to create a shell company or something so the place where they OD is not directly affiliated with your drug dealing business address.
- On the back of each envelope you sell, stamp this number. 1-800-563-4086. It’s the Connecticut Opioid Hotline. If they call that number they will be connected to the closest walk-in assessment centers where they will be evaluated, and the center will try to find the best form of treatment for them, and help them with insurance issues if needed. There are 7 assessment centers in the city of Hartford alone.
Our society created many of these addicts through poor policy that lead to widespread availability of painkillers that addicted many of our citizens. They need to get their fixes somewhere, until they are ready to get clean or there are able to get into treatment. We recognize drug dealers are filling a demand. If you are going to be do so, at least be responsible about it. And of course, none of this will exempt you from police enforcement of the state and federal laws.
And remember, No Hello, Kitty.