Governor Hogan Introduces Legislation to Combat Maryland’s Heroin and Opioid Epidemic
Bills Provide for Stricter Drug Trafficking Penalties, Strengthen Prescription Drug Monitoring Program
ANNAPOLIS, MD – Governor Larry Hogan today introduced legislation that will help combat Maryland’s heroin and opioid epidemic by strengthening the existing Prescription Drug Monitoring Program and facilitating the prosecution of drug trafficking as part of a criminal enterprise. The proposed legislation is based on recommendations from the governor’s Heroin and Opioid Emergency Task Force, which submitted its final report to the administration in December 2015.
“Our administration is committed to doing everything in our power to bring all the various stakeholders together to find the best ideas, and to work toward solutions to the heroin and opioid crisis that has overtaken our state,” said Governor Hogan. “These two bills will give medical professionals and law enforcement the tools they need to attack this crisis from every direction, with everything we’ve got. This problem is real and it demands our full and immediate attention.”
Governor Hogan is proposing legislation that would amend Maryland’s Gang Statute to better model it after the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO). The federal RICO Act, originally passed in 1970 to combat organized crime, has been expanded and used to go after a variety of organizations, from corrupt police departments to motorcycle gangs. Although 33 states have also adopted similar state RICO laws, Maryland has not.
The governor’s proposed changes would aid in the prosecution of, and provide civil penalties for, drug traffickers as part of an ongoing criminal enterprise.
Another crucial tool to combat the state’s heroin and opioid epidemic, the Maryland Prescription Drug Monitoring Program was created to assist health professionals and law enforcement in identifying and investigating prescription drug use and abuse. However, despite consistent increases in user registration and access since implementation, widespread adoption of the Monitoring Program has not yet occurred.
In order to make the Monitoring Program a more robust tool in the fight against prescription opioid abuse, Governor Hogan’s proposed bill would make improvements to the system while phasing in mandatory registration and use.