COLUMBUS— The Ohio Senate passed legislation today, ensuring that Ohio's drug abuse laws appropriately reflect the potency of fentanyl-related substances and addresses its growing prevalence in overdose deaths.

"This is an epidemic in our state, fentanyl is killing Ohioans in record numbers and we must take action," said State Senator Scott Oelslager (R-North Canton), who co-sponsored the legislation.
 
Fentanyl, a drug typically prescribed in clinical settings, is used as a powerful synthetic opiate to treat or manage pain after surgery. In some instances, the drug is prescribed to treat patients with chronic pain who don't respond well to other painkillers. Fentanyl is 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin.

The number of unintentional drug overdose deaths in Ohio increased again in 2015, driven by a sharp rise in fentanyl-related deaths, according to a recent report released by the Ohio Department of Health (ODH). Fentanyl-related deaths in Ohio have skyrocketed from 84 in 2013, to 503 in 2014 and rose to 1,155 in 2015. For comparison, the Highway Patrol reported 1,110 traffic fatalities in 2015.

"This stuff is lethal and it affects every corner of our state. Our fellow Ohioans want us to address this scourge on our communities," added Frank LaRose (R-Hudson), who sponsored the legislation. "I believe that addicts need to be in treatment and drug dealers belong behind bars. This legislation was crafted to punish traffickers without ensnaring addicts." 

This legislation targets individuals trafficking fentanyl related substances. Those selling fentanyl will face tougher punishments. Senate Bill 1 would lower the amount of fentanyl needed to receive higher-level felony convictions that carry longer sentences. It also provides a balance by not imprisoning those suffering from drug addiction.

Offenders charged with the possession of smaller amounts of the lethal substance will have the option to undergo drug treatment at the time of sentencing. These changes specify that when a fentanyl related drug conviction is connected to a homicide conviction, the prison time for each conviction will be consecutive, adding the amount of prison time for offenders who cause death involving fentanyl.
 
The bill also harmonizes state law with federal law by adding lisdexamfetamine to the Ohio schedule of controlled substances. Lisdexamfetamine is used to treat ADHD and hyperactivity and presents a high risk of abuse, especially in juveniles.
 
This legislation passed the Ohio Senate with bipartisan support and will be referred to the House for further consideration.
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