Bags of heroin, some laced with fentanyl, displayed after a drug bust in New York. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
FRANKFORT — Fentanyl test strips could no longer be considered drug paraphernalia in Kentucky under a bipartisan bill that passed a House committee Wednesday.
The House Standing Committee on Judiciary approved the measure 17-0, with three members passing
House Bill 353, sponsored by Reps. Kimberly Poore Moser, R-Taylor Mill and Rachel Roberts, D-Newport, states:
“Testing equipment utilized in determining whether a controlled substance contains chemicals, toxic substances, or hazardous compounds which can cause physical harm or death shall not be deemed drug paraphernalia under this section. This includes but is not limited to fentanyl test strips.”
Fentanyl test strips, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are paper strips that can detect the presence of fentanyl in pills and other drugs within minutes. Using them can help prevent overdoses, the CDC says.
“Test strips and a strong education campaign are evidenced-based practices that can help stem the tide of deaths by fentanyl,” Jennifer Hancock, President & CEO of Volunteers of America Mid-states, said in support of the bill. “We can’t put people on the road to recovery if they’re dead.”
In 2021, 2,250 Kentuckians died from overdoses, the VOA said, with fentanyl playing a role in 73% of those fatalities. That’s an increase from 2020, when the CDC reported 2,083 deaths in the state, which had one of the nation’s worst rates of fatal overdoses.
“We know that fentanyl has been introduced into our communities and is killing folks in our communities,” Moser said.
The paraphernalia designation has dissuaded public agencies and groups that work with drug users from purchasing and distributing strips for fear that doing so would land them in legal trouble, according to a statement from Kentucky Smart on Crime, a coalition working for justice reforms that address inequities and improve public health.
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent. Drug dealers mix fentanyl with other drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA because it takes very little fentanyl to produce a high, making it a cheaper option, says the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The risk of overdose increases when people don’t realize they’re taking fentanyl.
Possession of drug paraphernalia in Kentucky is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and $500 fine.
Other steps people can take to lower overdose risk, according to the CDC, are:
- Keep Narcan handy.
- Do not mix drugs.
- Don’t take drugs alone.
- Find a treatment center near you at https://findtreatment.gov or call 800-662-4357.
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