Senator Eric P. Lesser voted with the Massachusetts Senate today to pass a bill toughening penalties for the trafficking of fentanyl, a lethal synthetic opioid analgesic that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.
“Fentanyl is often mixed with heroin or cocaine, and is becoming an alarming contributor to the opioid crisis in our Commonwealth,” Sen. Lesser said. “It also poses deadly risks to any first responders, healthcare workers and residents who come into contact with it. This bill could not be more timely, and I’m happy to support its passage in the Senate.”
The bill, supported by Attorney General Maura Healey and a coalition of law enforcement and first responders from across the state, enforces a prison sentence of up to 20 years when the amount of fentanyl being trafficked is over ten grams, and determines penalties based on the amount of fentanyl being trafficked.
The Drug Enforcement Agency reports that from late 2013 through 2014, several states have reported spikes in fentanyl-related overdose deaths, for a total of over 700 deaths attributable to fentanyl over this time period. It reports a significant increase in fentanyl drug seizures across the country during the same period.
Massachusetts had the second-highest number of fentanyl-related seizures of any state in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC warns that fentanyl poses significant health risks when absorbed through the skin or accidentally inhaled, posing a significant danger to public health workers, first responders and law enforcement personnel.
Massachusetts has confirmed 1,089 opioid overdose deaths in 2014, which represents a 63 percent increase since 2012 and a 20 percent increase since 2013.