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Fentanyl strips legal to carry in Kentucky

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(The Center Square) – Fentanyl strips became legal to carry in Kentucky last week through a law passed by the state General Assembly earlier this year.

State leaders and advocates hope it will help the state continue its downward trend of overdose deaths.

House Bill 353 was a bipartisan bill that lawmakers in both chambers approved unanimously in March. The measure removes fentanyl testing strips under the categorization of drug paraphernalia. With the law, Kentucky joins the likes of Ohio, Tennessee and Alabama in allowing individuals to possess them.

In addition to the legislative support, HB353 received backing from Kentucky Smart on Crime, a vast coalition of organizations committed to common-sense changes in Kentucky’s justice system.

Jim Waters, the president and CEO of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, a coalition member organization, said in a statement earlier this year that no other bill passed by lawmakers was “more relevant” than the one sponsored by House Health Service Committee Chairwoman Kim Moser, R-Taylor Mill.

In 2021, Kentucky reported 2,251 drug overdose deaths, and nearly 70% involved fentanyl, a synthetic opioid significantly stronger than heroin or morphine and potentially fatal in just a small amount. That potency helps make illicit drugs less expensive, but in many cases, buyers are unaware it’s been added.

The new law comes into effect just a couple of weeks after the state reported its first decline in overdose deaths since 2018. However, fentanyl was involved in more of them.

While the 2,135 drug deaths in 2022 represented a 5.1% decline, nearly 1,550 deaths, or 72.5%, were related to fentanyl.

In speaking to reporters at a Gov. Andy Beshear press conference last month, Van Ingram, the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy’s executive director, expressed hope the new law would help save lives.

“Folks can test that pill they think they’re buying to make sure it’s not a fentanyl agent,” he said. “We’re excited. The numbers are going in the right direction for the first time since 2018, but we stay committed to do a lot more work to keep moving that number down.”

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