Cuomo wants to ban fentanyl to further fight opioid epidemic

Posted 16 December 2019 at 1:44 pm

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today unveiled the 2nd proposal of his 2020 State of the State agenda: legislation banning fentanyl analogs — a deadly synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine — by making them subject to the same criminal sale or possession penalties as other controlled substances.

The legislation will also empower the New York State Health Commissioner to ban any new fentanyl analogs that have been added to the federal schedule of controlled substances, allowing the State to deal with these deadly substances in real time rather than play catch up. The Governor will also propose a series of actions to expand access to medication assisted treatment for opioid use disorder in hard to reach communities. Medication assisted treatment entails using medications in combination with education and counseling to treat substance use disorders.

“The opioid epidemic is a public health crisis that continues to ravage too many communities across this country. In New York we have taken aggressive action to combat this disease, and we are seeing results with the first reduction in opioid deaths in 10 years,” Cuomo said. “Despite this progress, drug dealers have turned to lacing opioids and other illicit drugs with fentanyl analogs — a deadly synthetic opioid that current law does not ban. This two-pronged proposal will tackle that problem by banning these dangerous fentanyl copycats and providing treatment to people suffering from opioid addiction before it’s too late.”

Scheduling Fentanyl Analogs

Although the overall number of overdose deaths is declining in New York State, there has been a dramatic increase in overdose deaths due to fentanyl and its analogs. Fentanyl is a very powerful synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Compared to 30 milligrams of heroin, just three milligrams of fentanyl can be fatal.

Overdose deaths involving fentanyl and its analogs among New Yorkers outside of New York City increased 124 percent in 2016 and again by another 28 percent in 2017. Fentanyl analogs are not illegal in New York State.

This is because although some analogs are prohibited by the federal government’s controlled substances schedule, they are not listed in the State schedule. This loophole creates a nightmare for prevention and prevents prosecution. Currently, selling an unscheduled fentanyl analog is not against New York State law, unless the fentanyl analog is mixed with a banned substance.

In response to this crisis, the Governor will advance legislation to ban illicit fentanyl analogs. This action will close a prosecutorial loophole and make fentanyl analogs subject to the same criminal sale or possession penalties as other controlled substances. Giving law enforcement the ability to arrest and prosecute drug traffickers who deal in emerging fentanyl analogs. These new rules will give police and law enforcement the authority to prosecute the manufacturing, sale, and distribution of these drugs to the fullest extent of the law.

The proposed legislation will also give the State Department of Health commissioner the authority to add additional analogs to the list of controlled substances, allowing the State to stay in front of these deadly substances as they appear on the market.

The New York State Association of Counties supports the governor’s proposal about fentanyl.

“County service providers are on the frontline of the opioid epidemic, which continues to inflict pain and suffering in communities across New York State,” said NYSAC Executive Director Stephen Acquario. “The Governor’s proposal to ban fentanyl analogs will close a loophole in the law that hampers the ability of law enforcement officers to investigate and prosecute sellers of deadly opioid drugs. We commend Governor Cuomo for continuing to lead the fight against opioid addiction by updating our list of controlled substances and expanding access to treatment.”

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