Opioid & Fentanyl Crisis Addressed by Senate Judiciary Committee

By Cam Ward

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Today the Senate Judiciary Committee gave favorable report to a bill that will dramatically strengthen penalties for the possession and trafficking of the synthetic opioid fentanyl, a substance that is about fifty times stronger than heroin.

Currently, the possession of fentanyl can only be charged as the unlawful possession of a controlled substance, a Class D felony for which the maximum prison sentence is two years.

“In Jefferson County alone, fentanyl deaths increased by 114% in a single year,” SB154’s sponsor, Senator Cam Ward (R-Alabaster), said. “This is an unbelievably powerful drug and the illegal use and trafficking of Fentanyl are creating a public health and criminal justice crisis.”

Senate Bill 154 would make the possession of fentanyl or heroin a Class C felony, which carries a sentencing range of up to ten years in prison. The legislation is supported by new Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall.

Used as a pain reliever for patients, fentanyl is among the most powerful opioids prescribed by medical providers. Its street form is uniquely dangerous since the drug can be absorbed via the skin or inhalation.

“District attorneys and law enforcement have fought the devastating effect of dangerous drugs on the citizens and communities of Alabama for decades,” said Barry Matson, Executive Director of the Alabama District Attorneys Association.

“We have seen addiction destroy lives and perhaps most devastatingly of all, addiction takes the hope of mothers and fathers and the God-given human potential for a life free from the pain that comes with debilitating addiction,” Matson continued. “This is legislation we have crafted with Sen. Ward and it is critically needed in the fight against criminal drug smugglers, distributers and traffickers who apply their deadly trade in Alabama.”

Ward’s proposal also increases the penalty for unlawful possession of heroin from a Class D to a Class C felony, and now heads on to the entire State Senate for consideration.

Cam Ward represents District 14 in the Alabama State Senate, which includes all or parts of Shelby, Bibb, Chilton, Hale, and Jefferson Counties. He serves as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.