A dangerous threat hides in the shadows, inflicting devastation upon our communities and claiming the lives of our loved ones — parents, siblings, children, and friends. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is up to 100 times stronger than morphine, has emerged as a deadly force in the ongoing battle against drug abuse and overdose. 

To combat this threat, the urgent need for comprehensive legislation becomes undeniable. Through the enforcement of strict regulations, targeted law enforcement efforts, and the implementation of harm-reduction strategies, legislation can serve as a formidable defense in safeguarding public safety. By enhancing education and awareness, partnering with law enforcement, investing in research, and tightening regulations, we can create a comprehensive strategy to fight against this chemical warfare. 

This is why I am proud to present legislation that tackles the fentanyl crisis head-on. Senate Bill 189 would increase fines for trafficking controlled substances like fentanyl, sending a clear message that illicit trade in the deadly drug will not be tolerated in our state. Furthermore, we are introducing new offenses that specifically target those who distribute certain substances resulting in death, ensuring that individuals responsible for fatal outcomes face more severe penalties. 

Recognizing the importance of encouraging individuals to seek help, we have expanded limited immunity for the possession of small amounts of fentanyl. This provision offers protection from prosecution, empowering individuals to come forward and access the assistance they need without the fear of legal consequences. 

Additionally, this comprehensive legislation establishes a dedicated Task Force to bring together a team of experts that will enhance law enforcement efforts in combating the illegal manufacturing, importation, and distribution of fentanyl and heroin. By promoting a coordinated and strategic approach, we aim to effectively confront the crisis at its core. 

We cannot continue to be reactive to the ongoing fentanyl crisis; we must be proactive in adopting sensible measures to stem the alarming influx of these drugs through our southern border. The illicit trafficking and distribution of these substances is a form of chemical warfare, and we must fight to prosecute the individuals who are trafficking and distributing this deadly poison. 

We must get drugs off the street before they end up in the hands of our children. This legislation takes significant steps forward in our efforts to combat the fentanyl crisis, safeguard our communities, and offer support and solutions to those affected by this devastating epidemic.  

On average, eight North Carolinians die every day at the expense of fentanyl. The time to act is now, and I strongly urge my colleagues in the N.C. House of Representatives to pass this important legislation and send it to the governor for his signature. We cannot wait another day.