Legislation to address the deadly role of fentanyl in the nationwide opioid crisis was approved by the full Assembly on Thursday by a vote of 75-0.
The bill (A-5445), sponsored by Assembly Democrats Lisa Swain, Chris Tully and William Spearman, would establish a program to detect fentanyl in New Jersey’s illegal drug supply and make the information available in a database for law enforcement.
In 2017, there were 47,600 overdose deaths involving opioids in the U.S., including over 28,400 linked to fentanyl and other synthetic narcotics.
“Fentanyl can be 25 to 50 times more powerful then heroin,” said Swain (D-Bergen, Passiac). “It’s relatively cheap, strong, and incredibly dangerous, and poses a significant risk to a person’s health and life. We must determine where fentanyl exists in illegal substances found in New Jersey in order to reduce the risk of overdoses and drug-related injuries.”
“There are far too many victims of this crisis injecting drugs laced with fentanyl,” said Tully (D-Bergen, Passiac). “Fentanyl is showing up in batches of other opioids, heroin, and other illegal drugs. In order to prevent further loss of life we need to get fentanyl off the street, which requires better knowledge of exactly where it is and why it’s getting there.”
“Law enforcement officers are often on the front lines of the opioid crisis,” said Spearman (D-Camden, Gloucester). “They need all the tools they can get their hands on in order to stop drug traffickers and save lives. By identifying trends related to the presence and content of fentanyl in illegal substances coming into our communities, we can work towards eliminating overdoses altogether.”
The measure now goes to the Senate for further consideration.