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Virginia lawmakers move to classify fentanyl as a 'weapon of terrorism'

Lawmakers in the House and Senate voted to advance SB 1118 to change the drug's classification.

RICHMOND, Va. — The numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on fentanyl are disturbing. More teenagers are using and dying from fentanyl. From 2019 to 2021, the number of teen deaths from fentanyl overdose have tripled, according to the CDC. 

As leaders work to address the problem of overdoses across the country, lawmakers in Virginia want fentanyl classified as a weapon of terrorism. Changing the drug's classification would increase penalties who knowingly and intentionally distribute or manufacture it.

SB1118 says anyone who distributes "any mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of fentanyl" would be guilty of a Class 4 felony. A class 4 felony carries a sentence of two to 10 years, and a fine of up to $100,000. It would be on top of the charge for distributing a Schedule I or II substance, which brings a maximum 40-year sentence. 

Lawmakers in both Virginia's House and Senate voted to advance the bill on Friday. Now it heads to Gov. Glenn Youngkin's desk for signature.

This bill is the eighth bill introduced during the 2023 Virginia legislative session to address fentanyl in the commonwealth. Other bills would expand the number of people allowed to administer naloxone (or Narcan) for overdoses, and create a fund for treating opioid use disorder.  

More than 7,300 fatal fentanyl overdoses occurred in the state from 2013 to 2021, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

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