Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin wants to list emerging synthetic opioids as controlled substances. Kilmartin says this would give law enforcement the opportunity to crack down on these addictive, dangerous drugs.
The majority of opioid overdose deaths in Rhode Island have been linked to fentanyl - an opioid much more potent than heroin. And even more potent synthetic opioids have been emerging, faster than law enforcement can get a handle on them. So the Attorney General is asking the state’s Department of Health to classify them as controlled substances. That would enable law enforcement to arrest people for selling, manufacturing, or possessing these drugs and provide stiffer penalties.
Kilmartin says the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has invoked emergency powers to enable states to list these emerging drugs as controlled substances more quickly than usual.
Some critics of law enforcement say arresting drug users is counterproductive, and more efforts should be made to divert them from jail and into treatment.
The Rhode Island Department of Health says it has been working with the AG's office to reclassify these substances. In a statement, director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott said, “Governor Gina Raimondo’s Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force and RIDOH’s State Health Laboratories have already engaged the Attorney General’s Office on this issue and will continue to partner with his office to ensure that Rhode Island gets ahead of this trend and other emerging trends in the evolving drug overdose epidemic. We are absolutely committed to preventing overdoses and saving lives.”