Governor Baker Signs Bill to Crack Down on Fentanyl Trafficking

BOSTON, MA — Governor Charlie Baker was joined by Attorney General Maura Healey, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, Senate President Stan Rosenberg, Representative John Fernandes and a representative from the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police to sign the fentanyl trafficking bill into law on Tuesday.  This legislation, titled “An Act Relative to the Trafficking of Fentanyl,” was authored by Attorney General Healey and will increase the penalty for the possession and distribution of fentanyl to 20 years for distributing more than 10 grams.

“We must use all the tools in the toolbox to fight the opioid epidemic plaguing the Commonwealth, and I am pleased to sign this bill into law as a step in the right direction to crack down on the trafficking of one of the most lethal drugs on the street,” said Governor Baker.  “I appreciate the efforts by Attorney General Healey and the legislature to put this bill on my desk and look forward to aggressively pursuing additional legislation to address this public health epidemic.”

“By criminalizing the trafficking of Fentanyl we are giving police and law enforcement officials one more tool to get these drugs off our streets,” said Attorney General Maura Healey. “We now have a law that fits the crime. I thank Governor Baker and Chairman Fernandes for their leadership and the people who have had the courage to share their stories of what this drug has done to their families. It is because of them that we were able to get this bill passed and it is because of them we will continue to fight the battle against this crisis every day.”

“Combatting the opioid crisis in Massachusetts and supporting individuals struggling with addiction requires a comprehensive and multi-faceted approach,” Speaker Robert DeLeo said. “Criminalizing fentanyl trafficking is an important part of that equation as we continue our efforts related to treatment and prevention, and build off last year’s landmark substance addiction bill. I thank Chairman Fernandes, Attorney General Healey and Governor Baker for their foresight and prompt action on this urgent and distressing matter.”

“Fentanyl is 30 to 50 times more powerful than heroin and this legislation is another tool in our continued effort to combat the ongoing opioid crisis.  I am glad to work with Speaker DeLeo, Attorney General Healey, and Governor Baker to pass this important bill to appropriately punish those who traffic fentanyl,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg. “We will continue to work on other methods to fight substance abuse, reduce new addiction through greater education and diversion, provide access to treatment, and hopefully curtail the scourge of opioid abuse in our communities.”

Until Tuesday, individuals that were caught with large quantities of fentanyl could only be charged with possession or possession with the intent to distribute.  The legislation has been endorsed by the Massachusetts State Police, Massachusetts Chiefs of Police, Massachusetts Major City Chiefs, several District Attorneys and the Learn to Cope organization and represents an additional step in the state’s efforts to address the opioid crisis in the Commonwealth.  The Baker-Polito Administration has filed landmark legislation to enact additional prevention and education programs and expand access to treatment and recovery programs.  The Governor’s bill has gained significant momentum statewide, earning support from police chiefs, medical school students, behavioral health and substance abuse providers, sheriffs, local officials, and many others in the health care community.

“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 Representative John Fernandes, House Chair of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, and sponsor of the bill. “I was proud to work with Attorney General Maura Healey on this issue and I am grateful to Governor Baker and to my 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.”

Separately, numerous recommendations from the Governor’s opioid working group have already been enacted to begin eradicating this public health crisis.  The administration has budgeted more than $114 million in spending for substance misuse prevention, education and treatment, increased bulk purchasing of Narcan in municipalities and changed reporting requirements for the Prescription Monitoring Program from 7 days to 24 hours.  One hundred and thirteen treatment beds have opened in six communities (Quincy, Plymouth, New Bedford, Boston, Westborough, Fall River) with more expected in Greenfield this winter.

(NOTE: The above press release is from Governor Charlie Baker’s press release.)

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