- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 22, 2017

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - A bill to strengthen trafficking penalties for the synthetic opioid fentanyl has passed an Alabama House committee.

Republican Rep. April Weaver of Brierfield says overdose deaths associated with the drug increased 114 percent in Jefferson County alone last year.

Weaver is sponsoring the bill, which would make penalties for trafficking fentanyl similar to those of crack cocaine.

The opioid is 50 times stronger than heroin, and illicit users are often unaware of its potency. It is lawfully prescribed in the form of a pain-relieving patch.

The bill will move to the full House of Representatives for a vote.

Similar legislation has also passed a state Senate committee.

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