LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 7, 2016) – Representative Dennis Keene, Representative Russ Meyer and Attorney General Andy Beshear on Friday announced plans to strengthen Kentucky’s laws to fight emerging, more powerful drugs that have caused numerous overdoses, even deaths across the state.
The pre-filed legislation, by sponsors Rep. Dennis Keene, of Wilder and Rep. Russ Meyer, of Nicholasville, would amend the state’s drug laws to create penalties for dealers of fentanyl, carfentanil and other designer drugs.
“There is no tougher issue facing Kentucky right now than heroin and synthetic drugs like fentanyl,” Rep. Keene said. “The epidemic is reaching into every neighborhood. It is time for Kentucky to step up and toughen the penalties by accelerating the sentencing for people who are pushing these dangerous drugs in our communities.”
“In the past months, reports of heroin related overdoses and deaths have skyrocketed as drugs become more potent,” Beshear said. “Heroin is now often mixed with other very dangerous substances, like fentanyl, a drug 30 to 50 times as powerful as heroin, and carfentanil, an elephant tranquilizer. Carfentanil is 100 times more potent than fentanyl and 10,000 times more potent than morphine. My office is lending its support and resources to lawmakers like Rep. Meyer and Rep. Keene to fight this growing scourge and to save our families.”
“Our drug epidemic continues to evolve and bring major challenges to every community throughout our state,” Rep. Meyer said. “As leaders we must take every necessary step to fight it and protect our families. This legislation is aimed at newer drugs impacting our communities and other drugs that might come our way. The only way we are going to directly respond to these rising challenges is to work with our attorney general, law enforcement agencies in Kentucky and other leaders to hit this problem head-on. This legislation does that.”
The bill’s goal is to address fentanyl and similar powerful synthetic opioids, both known and unknown, by creating a new class definition for known fentanyl derivatives. Currently under state law classifications only cover fentanyl derivatives scheduled in Kentucky.
Under the legislation, controlled substance analogues, a broader definition, would cover unknown fentanyl derivatives and chemicals that have been altered beyond the current class description.
Additionally, the bill creates and increases criminal penalties for trafficking of fentanyl, fentanyl derivatives and analogues, which are structurally similar chemical compounds. Both known and unknown fentanyl derivatives are potent and deadly. The increase amends previous statutes treating these drugs the same as heroin, despite them being significantly more dangerous.
Kentucky’s criminal penalties must adequately reflect the dangerous and deadly nature of these drugs, Beshear, lawmakers and a group of local law enforcement officials said at today’s announcement in Lexington.
Beshear joined Reps. Keene and Meyer on Friday in Grayson where they testified before the Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary on solutions to Kentucky’s growing drug epidemic.
Southern Ohio and Northern Kentucky recently had an epidemic of heroin being mixed with carfentanil that lead to several overdose deaths.
In the 2016 legislative session Beshear worked with lawmakers to use $8 million from a lawsuit his office won against a drugmaker to fund 15 high-quality substance abuse treatment centers and organizations throughout the state.
The General Assembly begins its annual session in January, 2017 and will take up this legislation at that time.