The feds are set to crackdown on fentanyl sellers in Baltimore, where there is expected to be twice as many overdose deaths as homicides in 2018.

As part of the Trump Administration’s tough-on-crime stance, federal prosecutors will begin trying more fentanyl cases in federal court. They will be utilizing stronger resources and mandatory minimum sentences in an attempt to deter people from selling the deadly synthetic opioids in Baltimore, where there are expected to be twice as many overdose deaths as homicides this year. 

Writing in an op-ed for The Baltimore Sun, US Attorney for Maryland Robert K. Hur said that the tougher tactics will hopefully curb fentanyl sales. As of last week, all fentanyl arrests in Baltimore are being reviewed by federal prosecutors who will decide whether the case will proceed in the state or federal system. This is part of the federal Synthetic Opioid Surge (SOS) initiative.

“Federal prosecutors will pursue more cases involving fentanyl, bringing federal resources, laws and prison sentences to bear on those dealers who pose the greatest threat to public safety,” Hur wrote. “Word should spread that if you sell fentanyl on the streets, you run a very real risk of federal time.”

Federal drug charges carry mandatory minimum sentences. Someone convicted of distributing 400 grams of fentanyl will face 10 years in prison; 40 grams will carry a five-year sentence. If the fentanyl is found to be involved in a death, there is a 20-year sentence. Because federal sentences are served in prisons far from home and have no possibility or parole or suspension, they’re seen as more harsh than state sentences. 

“But criminal enforcement is essential to ending this crisis,” Hur wrote. “We need to target street dealers as well as corrupt pharmacists and medical providers. Treatment and prevention alone won’t stop the sellers, who are driven by profit and greed.”

Hur shared the story of a 35-year-old woman who died of a fentanyl overdose. Before her death she texted a friend, “I don’t want to [be] this way. I worked and fought too hard to throw it all away. I almost overdose[d] the other night. I don’t know what to do.”

“Law enforcement organizations know what to do in order to prevent more of these tragedies, and we are resolved to do it,” Hur wrote. 

Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions first announced the SOS initiative in June, starting the program in 10 districts that were hard-hit by the opioid epidemic. 

“We at the Department of Justice are going to dismantle these deadly fentanyl distribution networks. Simply put, we will be tireless until we reduce the number of overdose deaths in this country. We are going to focus on some of the worst counties for opioid overdose deaths in the United States, working all cases until we have disrupted the supply of these deadly drugs,” Sessions said in a press release at the time.

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