New opioid may be added to drug trafficking offenses

2 months 1 week 6 days ago Thursday, March 08 2018 Mar 8, 2018 Thursday, March 08, 2018 4:00:00 AM CST March 08, 2018 in News
By: Abby Dodge, KOMU 8 Reporter
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JEFFERSON CITY – A house bill would add the synthetic opioid fentanyl to the list of drugs prosecutors can charge people with trafficking. Only possession of the drug without a prescription is illegal in Missouri now.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Nick Schroer, R- O’Fallon, said the bill itself is very cut and dried.

“You hear a lot of times down here that it’s a simple bill, this really is,” Schroer said. “It’s adding the drug fentanyl, which has been attributed to killing many Missourians, into the trafficking statutes.”

Schroer said the problem with fentanyl has been present for a while now.

Schroer said in November of last year troopers arrested a man coming up from Arizona for possessing a significant amount of fentanyl.

“The dose of two milligrams is typically going to kill somebody, and this guy had 5 pounds of it,” Schroer said.

The CDC website lists fentanyl as popular for its heroine-like effect and that it is often mixed with heroine or cocaine with or without a person’s knowledge.

“People are taking dosages that they think they can handle because they are used to taking heroine, but they’re overdosing. They’re dying,” Schroer said.

The assistant chief for the St. Charles County ambulance district, Kelly Cope, said he has been around the drug for years.

“Obviously the drugs are illicit and they are being handled in that way,” Cope said. They’re not controlled by the FDA, so there’s no access to the accuracy of what’s in it.” Touching or inhaling the drug can harm first responders.

Fentanyl is legal when prescribed by a doctor. It is typically used to treat pain, such as advanced cancer pain, the CDC’s website said.

Cope said medics face danger everyday and the danger fentanyl poses isn’t any different than rescuing someone on a roadway.  

“It’s kind of an interesting game,” Cope said. “You never quite know what you’re walking into and often, with the opioid crisis, fentanyl is a piece that we pay attention to often.”

The bill sponsor said he wants to give prosecutors more legal backing.

“I think it’s time that we at least attack this from the criminal aspect and give prosecutors another tool to go after the big dogs that are bringing this in from Mexico,” Schroer said. 

“We can see the prosecutors putting the feet to the fire of these criminals, throwing them in jail and getting them off the streets,” Schroer said. “If need be they can work with these criminals if it’s a lower-level offender that’s just trafficking in a little bit of fentanyl.”

He said after hearing stories from his constituents, it was clear action needed to be taken.

“This is deadly. This is the future of the drug trafficking industry,” Schroer said. “Ultimately it’s killing Missourians and I think it’s time we take a stand against that.”

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