By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY — A Senate Bill given a favorable report in committee on Wednesday would dramatically increase penalties for trafficking and possession of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50–100 times stronger than heroin and morphine.
The bill would make fentanyl a class I controlled substance and change the penalty for unlawful possession of fentanyl and heroin from a Class D Felony to a Class C Felony, which carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison. Class D felonies are only punishable by up to two years in prison.
Senate Bill 154’s sponsor, Sen. Cam Ward, hopes the increased sentences will crack down on trafficking, distribution and use.
“In Jefferson County alone, fentanyl deaths increased by 114% in a single year,” Ward said. “This is an unbelievably powerful drug and the illegal use and trafficking of Fentanyl are creating a public health and criminal justice crisis.”
Newly appointed Attorney General Steve Marshall and the Alabama District Attorney’s Association support the bill, noting that it is necessary to give prosecutors the power and tools to fight criminal drug smugglers, distributors and traffickers who conduct illegal trade in Alabama.
“We have seen addiction destroy lives, and perhaps most devastating of all, take the hopes of mothers and fathers and the God-given human potential for a life free from the pain that comes with debilitating addiction,” said Barry Matson, executive director of the District Attorney’s Association.
Fentanyl, Carfentanil and their “designer” alternates are so deadly that 2 milligrams in contact with the skin or ingested is deadly. A pack of table sweetener usually measures about 1000 milligrams, for comparison.
Without an immediate antidote, a person will die.
Fentanyl is usually used by medical providers for pain relief, and even then, it is rarely used because it is the most powerful opioid available. The street forms of the drug are especially dangerous because they can purposely or accidentally be inhaled or absorbed through the skin.
The bill will now head to the full Senate for consideration, and, if passed, it will be considered by the House.