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Assembly Passes Bill to Crack Down on Powerful New Synthetic Opioid Far Stronger Than Heroin
Mazzeo, Armato, & Kennedy Bill Would Criminalize U-4 or "Pink" Which Has Been Responsible for Nearly 50 Deaths Nationwide
(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Vince Mazzeo, John Armato, and James Kennedy to crack down on a powerful, new synthetic opioid flooding the market that has proven far stronger than heroin was cleared to advance by the full Assembly, 76-1, on Thursday. The bill will now go to the Senate for further consideration.
The bill (A-2169) would criminalize the manufacture, sale, and possession of the powerful opioid commonly known as U-47700, U-4, or the street name "Pink," by adding it to this state's list of controlled dangerous substances. U-4 is a synthetic opioid analgesic drug described as eight times stronger than heroin.
"The proliferation of synthetic and highly potent narcotics is a dangerous and scary phenomenon," said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). "It's important that we send a strong message before this drug becomes even more widespread. We will not tolerate the distribution of yet another opioid that threatens the lives of our residents."
"This drug warrants swift action because law enforcement believes it poses the highest risk to high school and college age students," said Armato (D-Atlantic). "In addition to the penalties this bill will levy, parents should also keep a close eye on their children's online activity because that is one way the drug can be purchased."
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), U-47700 acts similarly to morphine in animals, and has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for human consumption. There are currently no known accepted medical treatment uses for the drug in the United States. Moreover, since 2015, there have been at least 46 confirmed fatalities associated with the abuse of this drug according to the DEA, including 31 in New York and 10 in North Carolina.
"There have been a number of reports of heroin being mixed with U-4 or replaced entirely by it, which makes it all the more dangerous given that this drug is much more potent than heroin, making users far more susceptible to overdoses," said Kennedy (D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union). "We need to send a swift, strong message that this will not be tolerated."
The bill would make it a crime of the second degree to manufacture, distribute or dispense U-47700, in a quantity of one ounce or more, which would carry a potential penalty of 5-10 years in prison. It would be a crime of the third degree when the quantity is one ounce or less, which would carry a penalty of three-five years in prison.
Additionally, the bill makes it a crime of the third degree to obtain or possess U-47700, in a quantity of one ounce or more and a crime of the fourth degree when the quantity obtained or possessed is one ounce or less, which would carry a potential penalty of up to 18 months in jail.
The bill also criminalizes the manufacture, sale, and possession of isomers, esters, ethers, salts and salts of isomers, esters, or ethers of U-44770.
The sponsors noted that "Pink" is currently illegal in four states: Georgia, Ohio, South Carolina and Wyoming.
The bill was advanced by the Assembly Appropriations Committee on June 4. It will now go to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration. It was approved by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee March 5.
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