Sen. Brad Farrin introduces bill to increase penalties for trafficking ‘manufactured poison’

Sen. Brad Farrin, R-Somerset, who lost his 26-year-old daughter, Haley, to a drug overdose in 2022, presents his bill targeting those who distribute and sell fentanyl in Maine. LD 986 aims to increase penalties for traffickers by reclassifying the offense as a Class A crime. “When it comes to selling drugs, Maine is not open for business,” he told the committee. (photo courtesy of Senate Republican Office/Mike Fern)

AUGUSTA – In solemn, heartfelt testimony on Tuesday, Sen. Brad Farrin, R-Somerset, presented his bill targeting traffickers of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids to the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. Farrin, who lost his 26-year-old daughter, Haley, to a drug overdose in 2022, told committee members that the steps Maine has taken to curb the drug epidemic in recent years “is not working.”

LD 986, which aims to increase penalties for those who traffick carfentanil, sufentanil, fentanyl and any derivative of fentanyl powder by reclassifying the offense as a Class A crime, comes on the heels of a record number of drug-related overdoses and deaths in Maine the past two years. In all, over 10,100 people suffered a drug overdose in 2022 with 716 suspected or confirmed deaths, according to state data.

“This manufactured poison is killing a generation. If we want to get serious about saving lives, we need to reflect that in the way we legislate,” he told the committee. “When it comes to selling drugs, Maine is not open for business.”

In calling fentanyl a poison rather than a drug, Farrin said his bill follows suit with other states that have added additional offenses for using an electronic communications device such as a phone or computer to aid fentanyl distribution. Those individuals would be subject to a Class B crime. However, he said the penalties are just one part of a larger solution to resolve the fentanyl crisis, much of which needs statewide collaboration.

“Over the last six years, many steps have been taken at the state level to address this epidemic,” he told lawmakers, referring to the Maine Opioid Task Force created in 2017. “I have been working with addiction medicine physicians and recovery community center advocates for the last few months on a companion bill. That legislation is going before the Health and Human Services Committee and it concerns substance use disorder treatment (SUD), recovery and prevention.”

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