In response to recent findings of fentanyl related deaths by the Office of the State Medical Examiner, Senator Jim Holzapfel (R-10) is calling on the Senate to finally post his bill, S-1026, for a vote. His legislation doubles criminal penalties for unlawfully manufacturing or distributing fentanyl – a prescription opioid found to be up to 50 times more powerful than heroin.
In response to recent findings of fentanyl related deaths by the State Medical Examiner, Sen. Jim Holzapfel (R-10) is calling on the Senate to advance his legislation increasing penalties for illegally dispensing or manufacturing the drug. (Wikimedia Commons)
“Fentanyl deaths are increasing at a rapid pace,” said Holzapfel. “The penalties for illegally dispensing or manufacturing this deadly drug must, at the very least, match those for dealing heroin or cocaine. Unless the New Jersey Senate moves forward to enact an effective deterrent, the death toll will continue to rise.”
According to a recent study by the Office of the State Medical Examiner, Ocean County fentanyl deaths rose from 19 in 2014 to 51 in 2015. Fentanyl is odorless, colorless and nearly impossible to detect, compounding the risk for users who are unaware that heroin is now often laced with the far more powerful substance.
Unlawfully manufacturing or distributing fentanyl is currently classified as a second degree offense, while penalties for producing or dealing heroin or cocaine are more severe.
Sen. Holzapfel’s bill, S-1026, would establish unlawfully distributing, dispensing or manufacturing fentanyl as a first degree offense, doubling the maximum prison sentence from 10 to 20 years, with a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of one-third to one-half of the sentence imposed. Those convicted of unlawfully producing or dispensing less than one ounce of fentanyl would also face larger fines.
“As a former Ocean County prosecutor, I have seen the toll the heroin epidemic has taken on local families,” Senator Holzapfel added. “The massive influx of fentanyl poses a new and serious threat to our community. The Legislature shouldn’t sit back while more of our friends, family and neighbors fall victim to this extremely dangerous drug.”
The Assembly version of the bill is sponsored by fellow District 10 legislators, Assemblymen Greg McGuckin and Dave Wolfe.
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