New Legislation enhances ongoing and multifaceted effort to confront the substance addiction epidemic facing Massachusetts
BOSTON – Representative Steve Ultrino (D–Malden) joined his colleagues in the House of Representatives to pass legislation criminalizing the trafficking of fentanyl. Drug traffickers frequently combine fentanyl, the most potent opioid available for medical use, with heroin which can create a lethal mix.
Under existing law, drug traffickers can only be charged with manufacturing, dispensing, or possessing fentanyl. Closing this loophole comes at a crucial time. The current opioid crisis is becoming increasingly destructive because individuals using heroin are often unaware that the drug contains fentanyl. Fentanyl is 50 to 100 percent more potent than morphine and 30 to 50 percent more potent than heroin.
“This legislation gives our law enforcement officials an important tool to crack down on trafficking and to help stem the opiate crisis sweeping across Massachusetts,” said Representative Steve Ultrino.
“Combatting the opioid crisis in Massachusetts and supporting those struggling with addiction requires a comprehensive and multi-faceted approach,” House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo said. “Criminalizing the fentanyl trafficking is an important part of that equation as we continue our efforts related to treatment and prevention. I thank Chairman Fernandes and Attorney General Healey for their foresight and prompt action on this urgent and distressing matter.”
“This bill is another step towards getting the deadly drug fentanyl off the streets and out of the hands of those struggling with addiction,” said Attorney General Maura Healey. “The heroin and prescription drug crisis is claiming lives and devastating families and communities across our state. We applaud the
House for passing this legislation and thank House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Chairman John Fernandes for their leadership on this issue. We urge the Senate to also pass this measure swiftly so that we can give law enforcement the tools to prosecute those who traffic these lethal drugs.”
Specifically, this legislation:
· Sets the threshold of fentanyl trafficking at more than ten grams;
· Includes any derivative or mixture containing fentanyl;
· Authorizes incarceration in state prison for up to 20 years.
This bill complements unprecedented investments in funding for addiction services and the landmark substance addiction law passed in 2014 which went into effect one week ago. That legislation seeks to set patients on a path to sustainable recovery by both increasing access to care and improving the standard of care. Under the new law, all insurance plans in the Commonwealth will cover acute treatment services, clinical stabilization and medical detox for up to fourteen days.
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