TRENTON – The Senate today approved legislation sponsored by Senator Paul Sarlo and Senator Joe Lagana that would address the deadly fentanyl crisis by targeting the dealers that traffic the highly-potent drug. The bill, S-3325, would focus on those who manufacture, distribute or dispense the drug that continues to take the lives of so many people.
“Drug overdoses have become a leading cause of death in communities across the state and fentanyl is the deadly ingredient that is taking a terrible toll of lives lost or destroyed,” said Senator Sarlo (D-Bergen/Passaic). “We must be more proactive in tackling a fentanyl crisis that is harming communities, devastating families and causing senseless deaths. The concentrated potency of fentanyl and its frequent addition to other drugs requires updated laws that focus on manufacturers and dealers.”
The bill recognizes the concentrated potency of fentanyl and the danger it poses to users. Fentanyl is 50 times more powerful than heroin, so dealers often add fentanyl to heroin and other drugs to increase their potency. It takes only a single two-milligram dose (or, two thousandths of a gram) of fentanyl to kill a person – the equivalent of 3-4 grains of sand.
“The deadly affliction of fentanyl and its addition to other drugs continues to claim the lives of New Jerseyans at an alarming rate,” said Senator Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Current law does not reflect the danger that fentanyl and fentanyl mixtures pose to our communities. This legislation would lower the threshold amounts of those substances it takes to establish a crime from the ounce-level to the gram-level.”
The bill would make it a first degree crime to manufacture, distribute, or dispense more than 10 grams of fentanyl, a second degree crime for between five and 10 grams, and a third degree crime for less than five grams.
More than 3,000 people died of overdoses in 2021 in New Jersey, according to the State Medical Examiner, with more than 107,000 drug fatalities nationally, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Fentanyl was the primary cause of death in most cases, according to public health officials.
The Senate vote was 32-0.