Pennsylvania State Senator Doug Mastriano (R-Gettysburg) on Thursday announced he will soon introduce legislation to strengthen penalties for fentanyl pushers whose sales result in deadly overdoses.
The senator is naming his measure “Tyler’s Law” after Tyler Shanafelter, an 18-year-old constituent who bought what he believed was Percocet but it turned out he had acquired a fentanyl-laced product. The young man fatally overdosed.
“I’m introducing Tyler’s Law to honor the legacy of Tyler Shanafelter, his family, and the other families in Pennsylvania who have lost loved ones to this horrible overdose epidemic,” Mastriano said in a statement. “We must send a message to drug dealers that if you kill Pennsylvanians through the sale of fentanyl, you will be spending most of the rest of your life in prison.”
He expressed frustration that fentanyl dealers are often able to cut deals with prosecutors to avoid significant jail time, even in instances when their products were used fatally. Tyler’s Law would impose a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years for anyone convicted of selling or facilitating the distribution of fentanyl resulting in a death.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that can be 100 times more potent than morphine; a mere two milligrams of the former substance can lead to death. It has also gained popularity among dealers because the processes to manufacture and purvey it are easier than those for heroin. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported that over 100,000 opioid-related deaths occurred in 2021, 15 percent more than in the year before.
As Mastriano proposes this legislation, he is also waging a campaign for governor; and his opponent, Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D), is also putting the Keystone State’s fentanyl scourge front and center in his professional agenda. Just recently, the latter released a report underscoring the shift taking place between opioid addicts’ reliance on heroin and their use of fentanyl.
According to the attorney general, Pennsylvania’s Bureau of Narcotics Investigation took hold of more fentanyl in 2021 than they had in the previous four years combined. The agency also noted that overdose deaths continue to climb rapidly: they rose by 16.4 percent in 2020 and rose by another 6 percent last year, totaling 5,438 statewide.
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