Pennsylvania bill to combat ongoing opioid crisis now law

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WETM) — Rep. Clint Owlett’s bill to help the Commonwealth fight the opioid epidemic has been signed into law by the governor.

House Bill 616, now Act 117 of 2020, places the drug carfentanil on the list of Schedule II controlled substances. The designation severely restricts the availability of the drug and makes it illegal to possess or distribute without a license or a prescription.

“The best way to combat opioid abuse is to stop it before it starts, and that’s what we are aiming to do with this new law,” Rep. Owlett said. “Restricting access to this dangerous drug will help keep it out of our communities and, more importantly, prevent it from taking precious lives.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, carfentanil is 10,000 times stronger than morphine and 100 times more powerful than fentanyl. It is commonly used as a tranquilizer for large animals, such as elephants. It is unsafe for human use and even a very small dose can be lethal. It can come in a number of forms—including powder, blotter paper, tablets, patches and spray. Some forms can be absorbed through the skin or accidentally inhaled. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration warns first responders to have respirators available when handling the drug.

Posters comparing lethal amounts of heroin, fentanyl, and carfentanil, are on display during a news conference about the dangers of fentanyl, at DEA Headquarters in Arlington Va., Tuesday, June 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Rep. Owlett noted the State Secretary of Health has taken steps to place carfentanil on the Schedule II list as a temporary measure under the emergency authority created by the passage of Act 37 of 2016. However, given the drug’s lethality, legislation making the listing permanent is a necessity.

“I’d like to thank my predecessor, Rep. Matt Baker, for initially proposing this legislation,” Rep. Owlett said. “I’m pleased to help finish the good work he started.”

The law takes effect immediately.

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