State Rep Files Bill To Include Fentanyl in Trafficking Laws

Tim Whelan

Tim Whelan

BARNSTABLE – A new deadly drug is turning up more and more on the Cape’s streets and one local official is making it his mission to ensure the drug’s dealers suffer the full consequences of the law.

The drug is fentanyl and First Barnstable District State Representative Tim Whelan of Brewster is co-sponsor of a bill to add it to the list of drugs with penalties for trafficking.

House Bill 4036 has been jointly filed by Whelan, a Republican who is a retired state trooper, and State Rep. Paul Tucker, a Democrat from Salem, who is a retired police chief.

Their backgrounds in law enforcement and narcotics enforcement led them to join forces, Whelan said. “It speaks to the fact that this is a bipartisan issue,” he said.

Whelan said fentanyl is “replacing heroin on the market as the drug of choice” for people who use drugs intravenously.

“It is 100 to 200 times more potent than heroin,” Whelan said. That means, he said, that the possibility of accidently overdosing on the drug is very likely.

Whelan said, the drug was first introduced on the market as a veterinary narcotic, a painkiller for animals. It then became available for human use through patches that were used for pain management for cancer patients and people in hospice.

But in the past couple of years, he said, drug cartels have found a way to synthesize the drug in illegal compounding centers or labs. Whelan said drug dealers “are producing it wholesale and finding it’s more cost-effective and more profitable for them to produce than heroin.”

A new law is needed, Whelan said, because “the penalties for trafficking haven’t kept up with what we’re seeing on the streets.”

By example, he said that someone found with a tractor trailer load full of fentanyl could only be charged with possession of a Class B controlled substance with intent to distribute with no minimum mandatory sentence.

In contrast, someone caught with 18 grams or more of heroin is charged with trafficking, which carries a mandatory minimum two-year sentence with longer mandatory sentences, depending on the amount of drug the person has.

The bill takes fentanyl which is currently not listed in the trafficking statutes and adds it to the trafficking statutes alongside opioids, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana.

Whelan said Jennifer Queally, the state undersecretary of public safety, gave him information from the state drug lab that shows the growing frequency of fentanyl. In 2013, the lab did not detect any fentanyl, but in the first part of this year, counting more than 500 samples of fentanyl alone and more than 600 samples mixed with heroin, Whelan put that at a remarkable increase in the drug.

“Our laws haven’t kept up with the market. We’re trying to be forward looking and we’re trying to keep our narcotics laws up to date in the evil market of drug distribution,” he said.

Whelan said that in his decades in law enforcement, he has seen many waves of drug use.

“This one scares me,” he said.

He said he met with parents and friends of addicts in the support group Learn to Cope recently and told them about fentanyl and its potentially deadly consequences.

“The pained look on their faces says it all. We have to fight this. There’s a human toll that’s accumulating. Right now, fentanyl is by far the biggest baddest demon on the street. It’s worse than anything we’ve ever seen,” he said.

Listen below to hear more from State Representative Tim Whelan about the drug fentanyl.

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