Fentanyl crackdown bill clears House committee

For Immediate Release

February 16, 2017

Fentanyl crackdown bill clears House committee

FRANKFORT—A bill that would make it a felony to illegally sell or distribute any amount of fentanyl, carfentanil and related drugs tied to an increase in drug overdoses in Kentucky has passed the House Judiciary Committee.

Trafficking in any amount of fentanyl, a pain killer now frequently imported for illegal street sales, and drugs derived from fentanyl as well as carfentanil—a large animal anesthetic said to be 10,000 times more potent than morphine—would carry up to 10 years in prison under House Bill 333, sponsored by Rep. Kim Moser, R-Taylor Mill. Trafficking over certain amounts of the drugs could carry even longer sentences.

The bill would also make fentanyl derivatives—which potentially number 800 or more, state officials say–part of the same class of drugs as heroin and LSD. Those drugs are classified as Schedule I by the federal DEA which describes the drugs as having no “currently accepted medical use.”

“Whatever (fentanyl derivative) is thrown at us in the future will be a Schedule I controlled substance under Kentucky law,” if HB 333 passes, Office of Drug Control Policy Executive Director Van Ingram told the committee.

Fentanyl, carfentanil and fentanyl derivatives are being mixed with heroin and sold on the street as heroin or other drugs. Some cities and counties have experienced dozens of overdoses in the span of a day or two because of the potency of the drugs which, Ingram said, can be disguised as pharmaceuticals like Xanax or Percocet.

“The business model for drug cartels is to mix fentanyl with heroin and make it look like (something else),” said Ingram. “It’s a much better —- for them. It’s a very deadly situation for our population.”

HB 333 would also create a felony offense called trafficking in a misrepresented controlled substance for those who pass off carfentanil, fentanyl or fentanyl derivatives as an actual pharmaceutical, like Xanax. 

Another provision in the bill would limit prescriptions for fentanyl to a three-day supply with few exceptions, said Moser. Rep. Angie Hatton, D-Pikeville, questioned how the legislation would prevent someone from getting another dose from another physician after receiving their three days’ worth. Moser said the KASPER system, which tracks prescriptions written in Kentucky for all scheduled drugs, is still in place to monitor what is prescribed.

“This language does not preclude the fact that physicians have to document with the PDMPs or prescription drug monitoring programs. KASPER is still a way to monitor… that’s still a requirement,” said Moser.

HB 333 now goes to the full House for consideration.

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Black market fentanyl use increasing in Kentucky

  • Deborah Highland
  • Aug 15, 2016

    ent3

    Fentanyl, an opioid painkiller 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, was found in the toxicology screens of 420 people who died in Kentucky last year of drug overdoses.

    That’s a 247 percent increase from 2014, when 121 people who died of drug overdoses had fentanyl in their toxicology screens, according to numbers provided by Van Ingram, executive director for the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy.

    “We’re seeing a huge uptick in fentanyl in Kentucky,” Ingram said.

    Pharmaceutical fentanyl is used in hospitals during surgery and is also provided in pain patches to people with severe, chronic pain, such as a cancer patient. But unlike opioid pain pills that have been diverted to the black market for years, pharmaceutical fentanyl isn’t what street dealers or drug abusers are using, Ingram said.

    “We’re not seeing pharmaceutical fentanyl being diverted but instead it is being produced out of the country and being smuggled in,” Ingram said.

    The drug is being made in clandestine labs primarily in Mexico and China, he said.

    “We’ve not seen a lot of labs in the United States, although there have been a few. The real danger of fentanyl is it is so powerful that skin exposure or powder exposure through the mouth and nose can put law enforcement at great risk,” Ingram said.

    Recently, the DEA sent out a warning to law enforcement agencies urging officers not to conduct field testing on suspected fentanyl and to instead package it and send it off to a crime lab for testing, he said.

    Most often when police encounter fentanyl, it’s found in heroin or being sold as heroin. But with the availability of pill presses, some dealers are using fentanyl to make pills that look like real pharmaceutical products such as oxycodone.

    “If an individual buys pills off the street, there is really no assurance that what it says on the pill is really what they are getting because of the black market use of pill presses and other drugs,” Bowling Green-Warren County Drug Task Force Director Tommy Loving said. “By buying pills on the street, it could actually turn out to be a fatal error in judgment.”

    The DEA has seized pills all over the country that look like one drug but in reality contain illegally produced fentanyl, Ingram said.

    “It’s really scary stuff with people making their own opioids and shipping them across the country,” he said.

    “What we’re seeing is a lot of fentanyl analogs as well. It’s not the same chemical compound you would find in pharmaceutical fentanyl. You don’t know what you’re getting, or how powerful it is,” Ingram said.

    Narcotics investigators in Warren County haven’t seen much of the drug, Loving said.

    “But we’re very much aware of it, and it’s dangerous,” he said.

    “It’s much more potent than heroin and there are different versions of it being manufactured. … A little bit of this powder, if you come into contact with it on your fingers or skin or happen to breathe a little bit of it, can be fatal. And we are looking into obtaining Narcan for all of our detectives in part due to this danger that they may now be exposed to,” Loving said.

    Narcan is a drug that counteracts the effects of an opioid overdose.

    South Central Kentucky Drug Task Force Director Jacky Hunt already has Narcan for his investigators, who unknowingly encountered the drug last year during an undercover drug buy. Officers thought the purchase was of heroin.

    When Hunt received the lab testing results of the substance his agency bought, the drug turned out to be fentanyl instead.

    “My guys handled fentanyl and didn’t even know it,” Hunt said.

    The drug is most often seen with heroin in Kentucky or sold as heroin, Ingram said.

    Ingram’s office has written some grant requests to try to obtain Narcan for law enforcement in an attempt to save as many lives as possible, he said.

    — Follow Assistant City Editor Deborah Highland on Twitter at twitter.com/BGDNCrimebeat or visit bgdailynews.com.

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    Cannabis

  • Maryland has recently been cited as a state with a high rate of opioid addiction, and now some are seeing legalizing marijuana as taking a lead against the epidemic and are also urging southern states like Kentucky to join in.

    https://i1.wp.com/cdn.inquisitr.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Tennessee-Congressional-Candidate-Had-180-Marijuana-Plants-On-Property.jpg

    Maryland has recently been cited as a state with a high rate of opioid addiction, and now some are seeing legalizing marijuana as taking a lead against the epidemic and are also urging southern states like Kentucky to join in.

    Newsmax reports that nine states will be voting on marijuana legalization in 2016, but is there some specific reason Maryland is urging southern states to join in?

    The Hill explained in an opinion piece on August 4 that Maryland will be fighting back at the opioid epidemic in their state by legalizing marijuana. They also state that some drug treatment specialists in Maryland are considering medical cannabis as treatment for opioid addiction due to a recent study from the University of Georgia.

    Citizens in the state of Kentucky have also expressed an interest in this form of opioid treatment, but medical marijuana is still illegal in the state despite recent considerations, as previously reported by the Inquisitr.

    Part of the reason that Maryland could be urging other states to join in with legalizing cannabis pertains to the lack of opioid treatment options in other states in the south.

    For example, NPR reported on June 15 that those in the opioid treatment industry in Georgia were outraged when the state decided to place limits on opening new clinics.

    The rehabilitation clinics they do have are needed because Georgia has almost 70 opioid treatment programs. By contrast, nearby Tennessee has 12, Alabama has 24, and Mississippi has one.

    Although any clinic for opioid addiction is better than no clinic at all, many Kentuckians have learned from states like Massachusetts, that they need to have medical marijuana options, specifically for opioid addiction, according to CBS News.

    States that use marijuana to treat addiction could also become leaders because the numbers of opioid deaths are rapidly increasing nationwide.

    Whether it is heroin, painkillers, or fentanyl, Americans are now dying at higher rates from opioid drugs, and the rate exceeds other types of accidents. For example, Vox wrote on June 2 that more Americans were killed by painkillers (42,000) in 2014 than car crashes (34,000), or gun violence (34,000).

    Naturally, any help Kentucky can get to fight opioid addiction with or without legalizing marijuana would be welcome, and a 2015 report from the Boston Globe about the epidemic in Eastern Kentucky quoted a drug treatment prevention worker stating the following.

    “We’ve lost a whole generation of people who would have been paying taxes, and buying homes, and contributing to society.”

    Eastern Kentucky has been highly documented in regards to having one of the worst opioid epidemics in America, and an investigative report about the Appalachian crisis in the Guardian in 2014 stated that “stigma and inadequate access to treatment are the biggest barriers to overcoming the ongoing crisis in Appalachia and across the country.”

    However, outside of being an effective treatment for battling the state’s opioid epidemic, many Kentuckians are excited to see the other improvements that legalizing marijuana, or hemp, could have for economies like the one in Eastern Kentucky.

    According to some reports, the process begins with decriminalizing marijuana. The act of decriminalization of marijuana will also likely protect the prominent illegal operations already deeply entrenched in Eastern Kentucky, as described by Columbus Dispatch.

    Kentuckians for Medical Marijuana published a 2013 study by Charles B. Fields, Ph.D., Professor of Justice Studies at Eastern Kentucky University, that stated “economic benefits… can be realized by the State of Kentucky by both receiving tax benefits and reducing expenditures enforcing current marijuana laws.”

    In other words, there is a price to pay to keep marijuana illegal in Kentucky, and legalizing cannabis or decriminalizing the growing, selling, or distribution could reduce Kentucky’s overall drug enforcement costs.

    Currently, the unregulated marijuana industry in Eastern Kentucky produces an estimated $4 billion per year, according to a commonly cited 2008 History Channel documentary on Appalachia called Hillbilly: The Real Story.

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