The Missouri House has proposed strengthening the state’s trafficking laws to include the potent pain reliever fentanyl and its derivatives, as well as Rohypnol or GHB – both commonly known as “date rape” drugs.
House Bill 239 would make possession or trafficking of those drugs a felony. Penalties range from three years to life in prison, depending on the amount of the drug involved. Missouri laws against trafficking do not include any of those substances.
Lawmakers heard that the abuse of fentanyl steadily increased between 2013 and 2017, and doctors said many people are being treated in emergency rooms because they took heroin mixed with fentanyl.
Bill sponsor Nick Schroer (R-O’Fallon) said there is a hole in Missouri’s trafficking law, so prosecutors often must charge for whatever drug fentanyl is laced with. He said more and more it’s being trafficked by itself, as it’s becoming more popular to abuse.
“I have two beautiful, amazing daughters that I kind of want to ensure … that they are not going to be exposed to these things such as fentanyl and carfentanyl and these other drugs of choice that are so dangerous that being prescribed in a micro-milligram fashion can actually kill you,” said Schroer.
Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and is legally used to manage pain, especially after surgery.
“We saw right before the hearing [on HB 239] that there was a record bust in the United States – 260 pounds was busted at the [U.S.] border … but in years past we’ve had many different seizures on Highway 44, Highway 70, where it was 30, 40 pounds, which was enough to kill not only everybody who’s in this Capitol right now, and this Capitol is full, it could kill many Missourians,” said Schroer.
As a criminal defense attorney Schroer represented a number of people who had battled heroin addiction. That’s how he became aware of the rise of fentanyl.
Representative Gina Mitten (D-St. Louis) sponsored the amendment that would make possessing or trafficking Rohypnol or GHB punishable by the same penalties as those for other controlled substances.
“If you’ve got somebody at a party that’s got 37 grams of marijuana, why would they have received a greater sentence than somebody that has less than a gram of Rohypnol or GHB?” asked Mitten. “My amendment … ensured that there was parity between those substances, because personally I believe that the ‘date rape’ drugs are apt to do a heck of a lot more damage than a large amount of marijuana or even heroin.”
Schroer and Mitten both acknowledged that Rohypnol and GHB are also used extensively in sex trafficking.
Schroer anticipates some in the Senate might try to make additions to HB 239 and then send the bill back to the House. He is optimistic that Governor Mike Parson (R) would sign the bill if it gets to him.