Deleo: House appears set to pass drug trafficking bill

BOSTON (STATE HOUSE) – The House appears set to take up legislation Wednesday that would create a new crime of fentanyl trafficking, allowing law enforcement to target dealers of the narcotic with stiffer penalties.

“I believe we’re probably going to take up fentanyl legislation,” DeLeo told reporters after speaking at the Health Policy Commission’s health care cost trends hearing on Monday.

House Judiciary Chairman John Fernandes and Attorney General Maura Healey this summer filed legislation (H 3755) that would add a new crime of trafficking in fentanyl, a powerful opiate that has some medical applications but is also manufactured and sold by drug dealers.

DeLeo said he expected the bill that hits the House floor to be similar to the bill that was reported out of committee. According to the House clerk’s office, the Judiciary Committee reported out the chairman’s bill without amendment and it is on its way to the Committee on Steering, Policy and Scheduling. The bill cleared committee on Friday.

“I think it’s pretty much the bill that came out of committee. What’s going to happen in terms of amendments, I don’t know,” DeLeo said.

House Majority Leader Ronald Mariano confirmed that the House is planning to take up fentanyl legislation on Wednesday.

In August, Healey said drug cartels had “figured out a way to manufacture fentanyl and they’re sending it out into our streets,” She said, “Many heroin users don’t even know that the drugs that they’re using contain fentanyl. It looks just like heroin. It’s killing people. It’s hurting people.”

State Police Superintendent Col. Richard McKeon said in August that the state’s drug lab detected five cases of fentanyl in 2013, 170 cases in 2014 and 473 cases of drugs with fentanyl so far this year.

A larger criminal justice reform package will have to wait for completion of a study by outside research groups, and likely won’t be done before the new session begins in 2017, said DeLeo, who has said he plans to seek re-election in 2016.

DeLeo and other top state officials in August asked the Council of State Governments and the Pew Center of the States to help examine the state’s criminal justice policy.

“We’re going to be waiting for the recommendations of the Pew Foundation, which I don’t think they’ve even started,” DeLeo said. “If we got it done in this legislative session – this legislative session being the two-year term – I would consider ourselves probably lucky if we could do that, so that’s going to be a while.”

After initially opposing it under the misapprehension that it would force students into screening, DeLeo said he is open to a measure passed by the Senate last week as part of its drug abuse prevention bill (S 2022), which would require school districts to have a verbal screening program for drug use among students, while allowing students to opt out.

“So if it’s a strictly can be helpful relative to counseling, I’d be inclined to think that that would be OK, but I want to hold my judgement ’til I actually hear about it, most importantly hear from where the members are coming from and the school officials coming from,” DeLeo said.

DeLeo said the timing of when the governor files his anticipated opiate bill would play into how the House plans to proceed after the Senate passed its drug legislation on Thursday. He said he expects the governor’s bill to be filed “fairly soon.”

Copyright 2015 State House News Service

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