by Steve Birr
Authorities in Ohio are cracking down on drug dealers trafficking in the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl with harsher legal penalties as synthetic overdose deaths continue rising.
Republican Gov. John Kasich signed a bill Wednesday that reclassifies fentanyl from a Schedule II to a Schedule I substance and makes it a felony for dealing the potent painkiller. Major drug offenders caught selling fentanyl will now face mandatory minimum sentences ranging from between three to eight years, reports Cincinnati.com.
The bill also prevents charges from being combined, meaning a dealer tied to a fentanyl death would face charges for both the fatality and for the initial sale to the victim. Fentanyl is implicated in the majority of drug deaths in the state. In Hamilton County, more than 90 percent of drugs tested between January and April 2018 contained a synthetic opioid.
“It ain’t the way it used to be with street drugs,” said Kasich, according Cincinnati.com. “You’re playing with the devil.”
Data released by officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on July 11 reveals the majority of opioid-linked deaths throughout the U.S. are now the result of synthetic opioids like fentanyl.
The report shows synthetic opioids killed roughly 27,000 people across the U.S. over the 12-month period ending November 2017, up from roughly 19,413 lives in 2016 and 9,580 lives in 2015. The sharp increase prompted a Health Alert Network warning from CDC officials advising of the ever-increasing presence of synthetic opioids in the drug supply, including in non-opioid narcotics such as cocaine.
Drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death for Americans younger than 50, killing more than 64,000 people in 2016.
– – –
Steve Birr is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation.