Massachusetts’ governor Charlie Baker took steps to address the growing number of overdose deaths in the state on Tuesday when he signed a law making the trafficking of fentanyl a crime. The new trafficking law comes on the tail of other efforts lawmakers have made in recent months to combat the rise in intoxification and substance abuse that the state has been seeing over the last few years.
Fentanyl is a type of opioid that is much stronger than heroin; drug dealers often mix fentanyl with cocaine or heroin, which increases the potency and deadliness. Both the possession and distribution of fentanyl is already illegal in Massachusetts with a penalty of up to ten years in prison; however, trafficking laws were not in place as they were for other similar drugs such as heroin, marijuana and cocaine.
The new legislation, of course, is in response to the recent increase in overdoses and drug addiction due to fentanyl. Baker noted that the previous lack of criminal penalty for fentanyl meant that law enforcement was constantly dealing with “a moving target” and that this law is meant to provide better tools in law enforcement’s efforts. Baker and other lawmakers are taking other steps such as mandating insurance coverage for detoxification and expanding the state’s civil commitment laws to include substance abuse and the size of opioid prescriptions that doctors can write for first time acute pain.