HARRISBURG – Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-33) renewed the call for Pennsylvania to get tougher on drug dealers after reports of a more potent, rainbow-colored version of fentanyl circulating on the West Coast made recent headlines across the nation.
“This alarming news proves exactly why fentanyl dealers in Pennsylvania must pay for the lives they take every day,” Mastriano said. “I introduced Tyler’s Law to impose harsher sentences on drug delivery resulting in death. Dealers shouldn’t walk away scot-free for callously profiting off the escalating opioid epidemic.”
Senate Bill 1295, introduced in June, would impose a 25-year mandatory minimum for fentanyl distribution resulting in death. The sentence would only cover monetary transactions and wouldn’t apply to drug users that share with friends and family or seek medical help when another individual is overdosing.
Mastriano dubbed the bill “Tyler’s Law” in remembrance of 18-year-old Tyler Shanafelter, a district resident who overdosed and died when he unwittingly bought fentanyl-laced Percocet.
“Tyler’s tragic death should not be in vain,” Mastriano said. “Although nothing we can do will bring this young man back to his family, we can take steps to prevent more unnecessary death and suffering.”
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It’s often cut, colored, scored, pressed and then sold as a counterfeit version of other narcotics like OxyContin, Percocet or Xanax. Just two milligrams of fentanyl can trigger an overdose.
That’s why Mastriano is renewing focus on his legislation after Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon issued a warning to the public last week about rainbow fentanyl, which sometimes resembles sidewalk chalk or candy, discovered during a warranted search in northeast Portland.
Investigators believe this version of the drug is stronger and will lead to more overdoses, especially among children and young adults who may find the design more appealing.
Fentanyl is easier to produce and distribute than heroin, making it a popular choice among dealers and traffickers. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there were over 100,000 fentanyl and opioid related deaths in 2021, a 15% increase from 2020. The epidemic only seems to be worsening here in Pennsylvania.
Under Pennsylvania’s current “drug delivery resulting in death” statute, defendants often cut deals for lenient sentencing and little to no jail time.
“The current punishment, or lack thereof, is unacceptable,” Mastriano said. “We must send a message to drug dealers that if you kill Pennsylvanians through the sale of fentanyl, you will be spending most of the rest of your life in prison.”
CONTACT: Doug Zubeck