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Law increasing sentence for fentanyl trafficking goes into effect Tuesday

A new law that criminalizes fentanyl trafficking will take effect Tuesday, Attorney General Maura Healey announced.

Sentences for trafficking more than 10 grams of fentanyl — a potentially dangerous synthetic opiate — could run up to 20 years in state prison, Healey’s office said Monday.

Until now, traffickers could only be charged with manufacturing, distributing, or possessing fentanyl, no matter how much they are caught with, according to Healey’s office.

The bill, which was filed by Healey and House Judiciary Chairman John Fernandes, was signed into law in November.

“This dangerous synthetic drug is killing people across our Commonwealth, in cities and suburbs alike,” said Fernandes, a Democrat from Milton. “With this legislation we are giving another tool to those who are battling to keep the opioid epidemic in the Commonwealth under control.”


Fernandes said the law helps to “close the dangerous loophole that prevented prosecutors and law enforcement from appropriately charging the drug traffickers who are putting this lethal drug on our streets.”

Healey said traffickers often mix fentanyl with heroin, unbeknownst to the buyer.

“More and more, law enforcement is finding heroin laced with this powerful synthetic opioid or being sold in its pure form,” she said. “This new law will help us combat trafficking and help keep communities safe.”

Fentanyl is estimated to be 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine and 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin, Healey’s office said.

J.D. Capelouto can be reached at jd.capelouto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jdcapelouto.