A former federal prosecutor is raising concerns that Alabama’s proposed crackdown on the synthetic opioid fentanyl could end up putting low-level users behind bars for years.

Former U.S. Attorney Kenyen Brown told the Alabama House Health Committee yesterday that under the proposed law, a person with a trace amount of fentanyl mixed with other drugs could potentially be prosecuted as a major drug trafficker.

fentanyl dose
Kensington Police Service

The Alabama Senate has voted in favor of tougher penalties for distributing fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid.

Senators voted unanimously in favor of the bill yesterday. It now moves to the Alabama House of Representatives for debate.

Sen. Cam Ward, the bill's sponsor, said an influx of fentanyl, which is significantly more powerful than heroin, is causing a spike in overdose deaths. Ward says state penalties for fentanyl possession are disproportionately low, and the new bill would make the penalties similar to those for heroin.

Several of Alabama’s government heads have announced their plan for fighting the opioid epidemic currently gripping the state.

The Alabama Opioid Overdose and Addiction Council issued its report and action plan last week to find solutions to the state’s opioid crisis.

Hospitals in Alabama as well as Mississippi are suing more than a dozen drug manufacturers, claiming they deceptively marketed and sold dangerous opioids.

Jackson, Mississippi’s Clarion Ledger reports the class-action lawsuit was filed late last week in federal court in Mississippi. The plaintiffs are Infirmary Health Hospitals, based in Mobile, Monroe County Healthcare Authority, based in Monroeville, and Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center based in McComb, Mississippi.

The state of Alabama has been selected to take part in a national project to help combat the opioid epidemic across the country.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley announced earlier this week that the state will participate in a National Governors Association learning lab to address the opioid issue. The project aims to reduce the number of overdoses and deaths related to heroin and prescription opiates like fentanyl. Current data shows 78 people nationwide die of an opiate overdose every day.