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Maryland takes new steps to stop opioid and heroin epidemic

Maryland’s government has announced a new Heroin and Opioid Prevention, Treatment, and Enforcement Initiative for 2017, an ambitious and broadly-sweeping approach to the ongoing opioid and heroin epidemic.

The 2017 measures are designed to augment legislation and programs begun in 2015. Combined, the programs have some important features — some already in place and others still pending finalization through the legislature:

— The creation of an Opioid Operational Command Center, designed to increase collaboration between local and federal agencies, including 12 state agencies and departments, to collect data on opioid use, abuse and distribution.

— The proposal for the Distribution of Opioids Resulting in Death Act, which would create a new felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison for someone who distributes an opioid or opioid analog that causes someone’s death.

— Renewed efforts to educate the public not just about drug abuse but about the law, like the 2015 legislation that allows someone to call 911 during an overdose situation without fear that their parole or probation status will be affected. They also would not need to fear arrest for possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia or providing alcohol to minors.

— New legislation that proposes to limit the duration of an initial prescription for opioids to a seven-day supply, except when it is for the treatment of pain associated with cancer, a terminal illness or being used to treat a substance-related disorder. The goal is to prevent addiction from taking root when only a short course of pain medication is necessary.

— The passing of the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute, giving law enforcement greater ability to prosecute major drug traffickers that operate across jurisdictional lines, such as those transporting drugs from out of state.

While these are just some of the highlights of the new measures being put into place, the overall message is clear: The state is cracking down on its opioid and heroin problem. It is aiming to help those who are addicted without criminalizing the addiction, while at the same time increasing penalties for those perceived as drug traffickers.

This means that if you are arrested and charged with drug trafficking involving heroin, a heroin-enhanced drug or an opioid, including prescription drugs, you can expect the prosecution to be determined. It will be especially important to consult with a criminal defense attorney as quickly as possible.

Source: Eye On Annapolis, “Hogan, Rutherford announce Maryland's 2017 heroin and opioid prevention, treatment, and enforcement initiatives,” Feb. 04, 2017

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