- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 14, 2017

All heroin dealers would face the same amount of prison time, regardless of how much of the illicit drug they were peddling, under legislation that won bipartisan support in the Kentucky Senate on Tuesday.

Senators voted 36-0 to pass the measure, aimed at creating tougher penalties for people caught trafficking smaller amounts of heroin or fentanyl, a powerful synthetic drug resembling heroin. The bill now goes to the House.

Under the bill, a first offense would be treated as a Class C felony, punishable by five to 10 years in prison. Current law allows Class D felony charges, with lighter penalties, for people convicted of trafficking less than 2 grams.

What’s been missing in the debate on heroin-related punishment has been the role of personal responsibility, said Republican Sen. John Schickel.

“All we’ve been hearing the last several years is excuses for people dealing in small amounts of heroin,” he said. “And with Senate Bill 14, this will quickly come to an end. This will put heroin traffickers on notice … if you’re going to kill our young people, you’re going to do the time.”



Schickel, the bill’s lead sponsor, comes from a region of northern Kentucky that’s been hard hit by heroin addiction.

The measure also calls for a Class B felony, punishable by 10 to 20 years in prison, for a second or subsequent offense for trafficking in any amount of heroin or fentanyl.

Meanwhile, people caught dealing less than 2 grams of heroin could potentially be eligible for probation or parole after serving at least 20 percent of their sentences. People caught dealing larger amounts would have to serve at least half their sentences before becoming eligible for release.

Senate President Robert Stivers acknowledged the bill would deliver “a fiscal hit to our budget” due to the potential for longer prison sentences for some drug dealers. “But it is worthwhile to send a message: It is time for this to stop,” Stivers said in a floor speech.

Federal and local authorities have been teaming up to try to combat the sale and use of heroin and fentanyl, a growing scourge in Kentucky.

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The legislation is Senate Bill 14.

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