Penalty for trafficking powerful opiate fentanyl to increase

Instead of 10 years in prison for having large quantities of the synthetic opiate fentanyl, dealers will face up to 20 years under the new law.

Governor Charlie Baker handed a pen to House Speaker Robert DeLeo after signing the fentanyl penalty bill into law in November.
Governor Charlie Baker handed a pen to House Speaker Robert DeLeo after signing the fentanyl penalty bill into law in November. –AP

Dealers caught with the powerful drug fentanyl will face stiffer penalties in Massachusetts after a new law goes into effect Tuesday.

Fentanyl is estimated to be 50 times more potent than its opiate cousin heroin. But currently, a dealer caught with the synthetic drug faces a maximum of 10 years in prison, compared to 30 years for heroin.

As of Tuesday, those caught with more than 10 grams of fentanyl will face up to 20 years in prison.

Back in August, Attorney General Maura Healey and House Judiciary Chairman John Fernandes (D-Milford) joined legislators and law enforcement to push for the synthetic opioid trafficking statute. In November, Governor Charlie Baker signed it into law.

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Fentanyl is sometimes mixed in with heroin without users knowledge, leading to an increased chance of overdose. Massachusetts has seen a jump in fentanyl cases, with state and local laboratories seeing more than 3,300 fentanyl submissions in 2014, compared to less than 1,000 the year before.

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