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Lawmaker: Ohio fentanyl bust shows need for new law

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(The Center Square) – Ohio lawmakers pushing to increase penalties for fentanyl trafficking point to a recent drug seizure as proof new laws are needed.

House Bill 230, which has had three committee meetings since being introduced earlier this month, would increase trafficking charges for cocaine, fentanyl-related compounds, heroin and methamphetamine. It would also raise the charges for human trafficking to a first-degree felony and expand the definition of human trafficking.

It would add a specification that if someone is found or pleads guilty to a fentanyl-related death, there would be a mandatory prison term of five years.

Reps. Cindy Abrams, R-Harrison, and D.J. Swearingen, R-Huron, said a significant drug bust in Butler County over the weekend proved the need for tougher laws.

Butler County Sheriff’s Office officials seized 3 kilos of fentanyl and firearms in a raid in Middletown, Ohio. Agents took about 25,000 pressed fentanyl pills with a street value of $750,000.

According to Abrams, the quantity was enough to kill 1.5 million people, the combined populations of Columbus and Cincinnati.

“My bill, House Bill 230, is a direct legislative response to the heartbreaking reality that fentanyl is being trafficked into our state and taking the lives of Ohioans,” Abrams said.

Ohio isn’t the only state looking to take a stronger stance against fentanyl.

In Michigan, lawmakers introduced three bipartisan bills that would revise sentencing requirements for various narcotic drug crimes. The package includes a reclassification that would allow stricter sentencing recommendations for producing or distributing dangerous drugs like heroin and fentanyl, which have contributed to increasing overdose deaths in recent years.

In Wisconsin, Gov. Tony Evers signed a bill into law in August that requires mandatory minimum sentencing for people who sell the drugs involved in deadly fentanyl overdoses.

The new law increases the penalty for selling drugs involved in a deadly overdose from a class C felony to a class B felony. A class C felony allowed judges’ discretion about a prison sentence. A class felony must include jail time.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott recently signed four bills into law that classify fentanyl poisoning as murder, require death certificates to state the cause of death related to fentanyl poisonings, expand distribution of Narcan, the commercial overdose reversal agent with naloxone, to Texas colleges and universities and expand educational initiatives to young people about the dangers of fentanyl.

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