BOSTON – A new law criminalizing the trafficking of the deadly drug fentanyl will go into effect Tuesday. State Attorney General Maura Healey authored the legislation which will help law enforcement get the drug off of the streets and out of the hands of those struggling with addiction.
The new law creates the crime of trafficking in fentanyl for amounts greater than 10 grams with punishment of up to 20 years in state prison. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, is estimated to be 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and 30 to 50 times more powerful than heroin.
“Fentanyl is claiming the lives of people across our state. This new law gives law enforcement the tools they need to prosecute those who traffic this dangerous drug,” said AG Healey. “More and more, law enforcement is finding heroin laced with this powerful synthetic opioid or being sold in its pure form. This new law will help us combat trafficking and help keep communities safe.”
Predatory drug traffickers frequently mix fentanyl with heroin, often without the knowledge of the buyer. It can be deadly even in very low doses. Recently, Massachusetts law enforcement has seen a significant increase in overdoses and deaths from the use of fentanyl. According to the National Forensic Laboratory Information System, state and local laboratories reported 3,344 fentanyl submissions in 2014, up from 942 in 2013.
Until now, drug traffickers could only be charged with the lesser crimes of manufacturing, distributing or possessing fentanyl, regardless of the quantity of the drug they were caught with. With the support of law enforcement and those in the recovery community, AG Healey and House Judiciary Chairman John Fernandes (D-Milford) filed the bill and it was signed into law by Gov. Charles Baker in November 2015. AG Healey testified before the Judiciary Committee urging members to advance the legislation in September 2015.
“This dangerous synthetic drug is killing people across our Commonwealth, in cities and suburbs alike. With this legislation we are giving another tool to those who are battling to keep the opioid epidemic in the Commonwealth under control,” said Rep. Fernandes. “I was proud to work with Attorney General Maura Healey on this issue and I am grateful to Governor Baker, House Speaker DeLeo, Senate President Rosenberg and to my other colleagues in both the House and Senate for acting with urgency to close the dangerous loophole that prevented prosecutors and law enforcement from appropriately charging the drug traffickers who are putting this lethal drug on our streets.”
Shortly before taking office, AG Healey announced the formation of an internal task force to aggressively combat the heroin and prescription drug abuse crisis in Massachusetts. AG Healey has vowed to use a multi-faceted approach to educate prescribers, pursue illegal drug traffickers and pill mills, and expand access to recovery and treatment programs.