Representative David Byrd, District 71 Capitol Hill Update

Increasing Penalties

to Combat Opioid Abuse

The General Assembly voted this year to strengthen penalties for trafficking fentanyl, carfentanil, sufentanil, remifentanil, or any analogues, mirroring the same weights used to define punishments for heroin. According to the Tennessee Department of Health (DOH), fentanyl, when mixed with heroin or other drugs, is a leading cause of opioid deaths in Tennessee.

The new law makes it a Class B felony to knowingly manufacture, deliver, or sell 15 grams or more of these substances, while penalties would be punishable as a Class A felony if it involves 150 grams or more.  Previously, the threshold for a Class A felony for fentanyl was 2,000 grams. This law, Public Chapter 201, has been in effect since April 25th, 2019.

Legislators acted this year to strengthen Tennessee’s death penalty law as it affects offenders who knowingly sell or distribute the most dangerous drugs, including fentanyl, with the intent and premeditation to commit murder. The new statute adds an aggravating circumstance for the imposition of the death penalty or life without the possibility of parole if the defendant knowingly sold or distributed a substance containing fentanyl, carfentanil, or other Schedule II controlled substances. This law is Public Chapter 231 and will take effect on July 1st, 2019.

Alternative Methods

of Managing Medication

A bill to curb Tennessee’s opioid epidemic was approved this year addresses alternative pain treatments—now Public Chapter 117.  The legislation further defines “alternative treatment” in Tennessee law to include chiropractic care, physical therapy, acupuncture, and other such treatments that relieve pain without the use of opioids. This law took effect on April 9th, 2019.

In addition, improvements were made to the TN Together legislation passed last year to curb opiate abuse. The measure allows providers and patients to voluntarily request a partial fill, while encouraging providers to write prescriptions for the lowest effective amount. It also amends the current twenty-day prescription of opioids for major surgeries to a thirty-day prescription. This action would make the length of opioid prescriptions for three, ten or thirty days depending on the need for medication relating to the type of surgery. This law is Public Chapter 124. Section 8 regarding the three-day supply and dosage amount will take effect on July 1, 2019, and all other sections are effective upon becoming law on April 9, 2019.

As always, I am truly humbled and honored to be your voice on Capitol Hill. If there is every any issue I can assist with, please reach out to my office by calling 615-741-2190 or emailing me at I look forward to hearing your thoughts, ideas, concerns, and suggestions during the 111th General Assembly.

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