Proposal to relax Maine’s fentanyl, heroin, cocaine trafficking laws to be heard May 13

Rep. Pinny Beebe-Center (D – Rockland) is the sponsor of LD 1492, a proposal to relax the laws around trafficking and distribution of drugs such as fentanyl, heroine and cocaine.

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 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.

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 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 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.

Read Also: Taxpayer-funded illegal drug injection sites proposed in Maine

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 those cases.

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.

Last month, under pressure from President Trump, the nation of China announced it would ban all forms of fentanyl and cut the supply of the drug to the United States. Fentanyl dealers have been known to purchase significant quantities of fentanyl from Chinese dealers online and through mail order.

The public hearing will take place Monday, May 13th at 9:00 AM in the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Room 436.

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