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West Virginia House Backs Tougher Drug Overdose Penalties

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) – The West Virginia House has approved legislation to establish stiffer prison sentences for trafficking in fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid sometimes added to heroin and blamed for many recent overdoses in the state.

Under the bill, trafficking in less than 5 grams of the narcotic could mean a felony with a minimum of two years and up to 10 years in prison.

Penalties increase for larger amounts, reaching 20 to 45 years locked up for possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more.

The House voted 95-3 to approve the bill. It now goes to the Senate, where a companion measure has also been introduced.

Sponsors say it doesn’t target users and requires showing intent to manufacture or deliver the drug.