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May 4, 2014

New bill will attack prescription drug abuse

CHICKASHA —

District Attorney Jason Hicks and his task force may soon prosecute drug trafficking cases for certain amounts of compounds containing morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone and benzodiazepine. 

The State Senate recently approved a bill that would add morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone and benzodiazepine to the state's Traffficking in Illegal Drugs Act.

The Trafficking in Illegal Drugs Act currently applies to marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, LSD, PCP, "crack" cocaine and ecstasy, according to the state legislature's website.

The bill calls for anyone found with 1,000 grams or more of morphine, 400 grams or more of oxycodone, at least 50 grams or more of hydrocodone, or more than 15 grams of benzodiazepine to be fined between $100,000 and $500,000, according to a press release.

Those who purposely distribute, manufacture or possess the drugs listed in the act will be found guilty of trafficking, according to the press release.

"These are four of the most commonly-abused prescription drugs in our state and are the most commonly found drugs in prescription drug deaths," said State Sen. Frank Simpson (R-Ardmore). "Over 80 percent of the drug-related deaths in Oklahoma involve at least one prescription drug. We hope that this bill will limit the trafficking of these drugs and prevent further senseless deaths and cut down on drug crimes in Oklahoma."

District Attorney Jason Hicks, who serves in Grady, Stephens, Caddo and Jefferson Counties, said he's happy the drugs might be added to the list and he sees overdose deaths related to oxycodone on a relatively regular basis.

Hicks said the weight designated for morphine and oxycodone should be less than for hydrocodone or benzodiazepine, however, because he and his task force have found fairly regular abuse of hydrocodone, but morphine and oxycodone may be more dangerous.

He said he and his task force currently see more cases of possession with intent to distribute drugs like methamphetamine and marijuana than drug trafficking cases.

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