Fentanyl crackdown bill clears House committee; Senate passes smoke free schools measure

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FRANKFORT—A bill that would make it a felony to illegally sell or distribute any amount of fentanyl, carfentanil and related drugs tied to an increase in drug overdoses in Kentucky has passed the House Judiciary Committee.

Trafficking in any amount of fentanyl, a pain killer now frequently imported for illegal street sales, and drugs derived from fentanyl as well as carfentanil—a large animal anesthetic said to be 10,000 times more potent than morphine—would carry up to 10 years in prison under House Bill 333, sponsored by Rep. Kim Moser, R-Taylor Mill. Trafficking over certain amounts of the drugs could carry even longer sentences.

Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington, (left) speaks with Rep. Stan Lee, R-Lexington, during the House Judiciary Committee (LRC Public Information Photo)

The bill would also make fentanyl derivatives—which potentially number 800 or more, state officials say–part of the same class of drugs as heroin and LSD. Those drugs are classified as Schedule I by the federal DEA which describes the drugs as having no “currently accepted medical use.”

“Whatever (fentanyl derivative) is thrown at us in the future will be a Schedule I controlled substance under Kentucky law,” if HB 333 passes, Office of Drug Control Policy Executive Director Van Ingram told the committee.

Fentanyl, carfentanil and fentanyl derivatives are being mixed with heroin and sold on the street as heroin or other drugs. Some cities and counties have experienced dozens of overdoses in the span of a day or two because of the potency of the drugs which, Ingram said, can be disguised as pharmaceuticals like Xanax or Percocet.

“The business model for drug cartels is to mix fentanyl with heroin and make it look like (something else),” said Ingram. “It’s a much better —- for them. It’s a very deadly situation for our population.”

HB 333 would also create a felony offense called trafficking in a misrepresented controlled substance for those who pass off carfentanil, fentanyl or fentanyl derivatives as an actual pharmaceutical, like Xanax.

Another provision in the bill would limit prescriptions for fentanyl to a three-day supply with few exceptions, said Moser. Rep. Angie Hatton, D-Pikeville, questioned how the legislation would prevent someone from getting another dose from another physician after receiving their three days’ worth. Moser said the KASPER system, which tracks prescriptions written in Kentucky for all scheduled drugs, is still in place to monitor what is prescribed.

“This language does not preclude the fact that physicians have to document with the PDMPs or prescription drug monitoring programs. KASPER is still a way to monitor… that’s still a requirement,” said Moser.

HB 333 now goes to the full House for consideration.

Senate moves to snuff out smoking in schools

Public schools across Kentucky would have to go smoke free by next school year under legislation the state Senate passed by a 25-8-2 vote.

Senate Bill 78, dubbed tobacco-free schools bill, would outlaw the use of all tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, on elementary, middle and high school campuses, said bill sponsor Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester. He added that the ban would extend to school trips and school buses.

“It is time for Kentucky to step up to the plate and protect its kids,” said Alvarado, who is also a physician. “Let’s get our children healthier. Let’s save taxpayer money. Let’s save some Kentucky lives.”

He said 16.9 percent of Kentucky high school students smoke regularly compared to 15.1 percent of U.S. adults.

“Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States,” Alvarado said. “A strongly enforced tobacco-free school policy can prevent or delay students from using tobacco. Some studies have shown up to a 30 percent reduction in student smoking.

“Asthma is the leading cause of school absenteeism. Exposer to secondhand smoke is one of the leading triggers of asthma attacks. Youth who smoke report more respiratory problems and illnesses than their non-smoking peers.”

Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, asked whether state legislators wanted to mandate from Frankfort what locally-elected school boards must do.

“I would urge members to think about this,” said Hornback, who voted against the bill.

School boards can decide for themselves under current laws. And just over half of Kentucky’s public-school students are in school districts with tobacco-free policies. That is 62 of the state’s 173 districts, covering 654 schools.

Hornback also asked if a student would be in violation of the ban if they drove to school with a pack of cigarettes in their car. Alvarado said it would be a violation, but added that school boards set the penalty.

Sen. Johnny Ray Turner, D-Prestonsburg, said he passed on SB 78 out of concerns about the unintended consequences of the legislation. He said smokers may not purchase tickets to school sporting events if they can’t light up. That would hurt revenue for cash-strapped districts, said, a former high school basketball coach.

The measure now goes to the state House of Representatives for consideration.

Foster youth driver’s license bill heads to Senate

Sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds in foster care could apply for driver’s permits and driver’s licenses under a bill that has passed the Kentucky House.

House Bill 192, sponsored by Rep. Larry Brown, R-Prestonsburg, said the bill will give foster children access to the same rite of passage that most teenagers enjoy—the ability to get a driver’s license or permit—without requiring them to have a parent’s or other adult’s signature on the permit or license applications.

Brown said teens in foster care could sign permit or license applications for themselves as long as the application is verified by the state and the teenager has proof of insurance.

“Foster youth are very disadvantaged in this respect because most of them have to wait until they turn 18 to be able to get a driver’s license. This will allow them to do so on their own signature,” said Brown.

Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, described the bill as a positive step for Kentucky’s foster youth.

Foster youth “have felt like there is a stigma attached because all of their peers were able to get driver’s licenses but they just had an ID that basically said who they were,” said Marzian.

HB 192 passed by a vote of 96-0 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

From LRC Public Information

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