AUGUSTA – A bill that would relax penalties and laws around heroin, cocaine and fentanyl trafficking, furnishing and possession in Maine will be considered by the Maine Legislature. The bill, L.D. 1492 “An Act To Reform Drug Sentencing Laws“, was referred to the Legislature’s Criminal Justice Committee on Thursday.
Sponsored by Rep. Pinny Beebe-Center (D – Rockland), the proposal would redefine the definition of trafficking under Maine law to allow individuals to possess a larger amount of heroin, cocaine and fentanyl along with distribution materials without that possession being punishable as drug trafficking.
It also relaxes or eliminates other restrictions of various drugs under state law.
Currently, possession of 2 grams of fentanyl powder or heroin along with 90 bags is defined as trafficking, but L.D. 1492 strikes those provisions from the law completely. The bill also strikes similar language from the definition of ‘furnishing’ heroin or fentanyl powder and relaxes the legal language that defines the drugs.
bill changes the law covering the possession of the drugs cocaine, heroine,
oxycodone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, methamphetamine and fentanyl powder by
increasing the amount that can be possessed without criminal penalties and relaxes
the class of crime that such possession is punishable under.
Currently, possession of 2 grams of any of those drugs is punishable as a Class C (felony level) crime, but under Rep. Beebe-Center’s proposal, that possession threshold would be relaxed to a possession threshold of up to 3.5 grams and reduced to a Class D crime.
The United States Drug Enforcement Agency says a dose of 2 milligrams of fentanyl can be fatal. Under Rep. Beebe-Center’s proposed changes, a person could be in possession of about 1,750 doses of fentanyl at the deadly 2 mg level and only be charged with what is commonly called a misdemeanor level crime.
Two milligrams of fentanyl is roughly the equivalent of 5 to 7 grains of table salt, according to the DEA.
Nationally, there is a movement to decriminalize the possession of drugs, but Maine has been in the throes of a deadly opioid crisis that has killed thousands over a number of years.
Rep. Beebe-Center’s proposal will be required to have a public hearing before the Legislature’s Criminal Justice Committee, and then a work session and votes in the Maine House and Senate before it could be sent to Governor Janet Mills for consideration.
Along with Rep. Beebe-Center’s push to relax or eliminate laws related to drug possession, trafficking and furnishing, Rep. Michael Sylvester (D – Portland) has proposed creating taxpayer funded injection sites which create ½ mile ‘tolerance zones’ around the site to prevent drug users from facing criminal penalties for drug violations.
In that proposal, drug users would be provided taxpayer funded needles, healthcare and space to use drugs free from concern about law enforcement. They would also have medical professionals on site to administer Narcan if the drug user overdosed.
Governor Janet Mills also recently announced that the state will be placing Narcan ‘NaloxBoxes’ in public spaces to make them readily available to help people who have overdosed on opioids, such as fentanyl, oxycodone, heroin and most of the other drugs that Rep. Beebe-Center’s bill would relax the state laws for possession and trafficking of.