Thursday, February 16, 2017

Legislature moving bills targeting fentanyl sales, shortening length of most opioid prescriptions to three days

The General Assembly is moving bills to increase penalties for the sale of fentanyl and put a three-day limit on prescriptions of other high-potency painkillers, in an effort to stem the state's opioid epidemic.

Kim P. Moser
"This is a public-health crisis," freshman Rep. Kimberly Poore Moser, R-Taylor Mill, a former nurse who reminded the House Judiciary Committee that Kentucky has the nation's third highest rate of deaths from opioid overdoses.

Her legislation would raise the penalty for selling any amount of fentanyl, "a powerful synthetic opioid," reports Bruce Schreiner of The Associated Press. "Current law allows lesser felony charges, with lighter penalties, for people convicted of trafficking less than 2 grams."

"The bill would create a new crime of trafficking in a misrepresented controlled substance, a felony punishable by one to five years in prison," Schreiner writes. "It's aimed at drug dealers who sell fentanyl to buyers who think they're getting less-potent painkillers, with sometimes deadly results."
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Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington, said at the House Judiciary Committee's Feb. 15 meeting, "We have people in this commonwealth who are actively marketing something that is the equivalent to shooting somebody. And we've got to have strict penalties for that. . . . And if it means longer terms of incarceration, there's one way not to get into that situation – don't traffic in this stuff."

The bill would also "direct licensure boards overseeing doctors and others with prescriptive authority to write regulations setting guidelines to generally limit a patient's supply of painkillers to three days," Schreiner reports. "There would be exemptions in cases of chronic pain, end-of-life and cancer care and if a provider believes there's a medical necessity for a longer prescription."

Gov. Matt Bevin told the committee, "We've got to make it harder to get addicted." Schreiner reports, "Bevin said no amount of government money or rehabilitation programs will fix Kentucky's drug woes until action is taken to reduce the state's acute drug addiction rate."

The committee approved the bill on a bipartisan vote. The day before, the state Senate passed and sent to the House a bill to toughen penalties for people caught trafficking smaller amounts of heroin or fentanyl.

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