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’s Criminal Justice Committee on
Monday, May 13th in Augusta.
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
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.
Further, the 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
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 the public hearing, then a work session before votes in the Maine House and Senate could send it 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.
The public hearing comes on the heels of a massive drug
trafficking bust across Washington County in which a “collaborative effort
between the FBI, MDEA, Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Maine State Police,
Hancock County Sheriff’s Office, US Drug Enforcement Administration, ATF, US
Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, US
Border Patrol, US Secret Service, US Marshals Service and Maine’s Marine Patrol
executed several warrants in multiple towns resulted in the arrest of 27
individuals,” according to Washington County Sheriff Barry Curtis.
Sheriff Curtis also said that the Drug Unit of the Washington
County Sheriff’s Department provided the majority of the intelligence used in
Laws around possession and trafficking of most of the narcotics
confiscated in the Washington County drug bust, such as cocaine, heroin and fentanyl,
would be relaxed under Rep. Beebe-Center’s bill.