© 2023
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Massachusetts AG Files Bill To Crack Down On Fentanyl Trafficking


In the midst of a opioid addiction crisis in Massachusetts, there is an effort to close a loophole in the state’s drug trafficking laws.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced the filing of legislation Monday to make it a crime to traffic fentanyl — a synthetic painkiller that is up to 50 times more potent than heroin. Healey said drug cartels have figured out how to manufacture fentanyl and are sending it out on the streets where many heroin addicts are unknowingly using it.

"It is killing people. It is hurting people. We need to do all we can to get fentanyl off our streets," said Healey

Because fentanyl is not a narcotic, it is not covered by the same criminal laws that apply to heroin and prescription painkillers that have fueled the state’s drug addiction crisis.

Healey said a bill has been filed in the Massachusetts House that would make trafficking in fentanyl a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

"This is important legislation that I truly believe will make a difference here in our state," said Healey.

Democratic State Rep. John Fernandes, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said the bill has bipartisan support with 57 co-sponsors.

" This is a gap in our system and it is one I hope we in the legislature can close quickly," he said.

A group of police and local prosecutors joined Healey at the news conference. Also speaking was the mother of a drug overdose victim.  Catherine Fennelly of  Quincy held up  her son’s death certificate that stated the 21-year- old died from a fentanyl overdose.

" I watched my son Paul suffer for 8 long years.  There is a new face of addiction. It does not look like you would assume, a homeless person on the street, no teeth, you know, a bum.  It is our kids. It is you, me, a judge, everybody," she said.

More than 300 people have died from suspected opioid overdoses in the first three months of this year in Massachusetts.  More than 1,200 deaths were attributed to drug overdoses in the state last year – a 57 percent increase from 2012.

In the past year, Massachusetts law enforcement has seen a significant increase in the presence of fentanyl in drug investigations, according to Northwestern District Attorney Dave Sullivan.

" Fentanyl is about greed," said Sullivan.  " It is about dealers adding to the heroin to make it stronger and at the same time create a killer drug."

State and local police crime labs reported 3,334 fentanyl submissions in 2014, up from 942 in 2013, according to the National Forensic Laboratory Information System.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
Related Content