State Rep. David Rutigliano (R-123) co-sponsored a proposal which would amend the definition of narcotic substance to include fentanyl, which currently is only listed as a synthetic drug, meaning it carries a lesser sentence. The measure passed the House of Representatives on Monday.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, which is more addictive and deadly than opioids or heroin. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fentanyl depresses central nervous system and respiratory functions and is estimated to be 80 times more potent than morphine and hundreds of times more potent than heroin.
The legislation, HB-5524, An Act Increasing the Penalties for the Sale of Fentanyl would increase penalties for the dealing and manufacturing of fentanyl and its derivatives adding them to the same category as heroin.
“We need to punish the street dealers harshly for selling this deadly drug. Fentanyl seems to be finding its way into so many other substances, sometimes instantly killing its users. Changing the definition will permit state prosecutors and judges to level heftier sentences,” said Rep. Rutigliano.
Individuals convicted of selling narcotics generally face longer prison sentences and greater fines than those convicted of selling non-narcotic controlled substances.
Under current law, a person convicted for a first offense of selling narcotics may be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison, fined up to $50,000, or both. In contrast, a person convicted for a first offense of selling non-narcotic controlled substances may be sentenced to up to seven years in prison, fined up to $25,000, or both.
There were 1,038 overdose deaths in Connecticut in 2017, according to the Office of Chief Medical Examiner. In nearly two-thirds of those deaths some trace of fentanyl was found in the person’s system. Last year, there were 1,017 overdose deaths and 760 of those deaths involved fentanyl, which is up from 677 in 2017, 483 in 2016, and 189 in 2015.
The bill now moves to the State Senate for debate and a vote.