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State bill addresses fentanyl derivative

A derivative of a drug under investigation by Grand Forks police could be added to the state's most severe drug category if a state legislative bill being heard today passes into law.

A derivative of a drug under investigation by Grand Forks police could be added to the state's most severe drug category if a state legislative bill being heard today passes into law.

An analog of fentanyl, called acetylfentanyl, is added to the state's list of Schedule I controlled substances in a bill requested by the North Dakota Board of Pharmacy.

Bills adjusting drug classifications usually run through the state Legislature each session as the state works to keep up with changes in drug trends, said Sen. David Hogue, R-Minot, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which introduced the bill this session and is hearing it today.

Grand Forks police began investigating powdered fentanyl after the fatal overdose of 18-year-old Bailey Henke Jan. 3. Police throughout North Dakota said they had not heard of powdered fentanyl abuse until that case.

While acetylfentanyl, which is addressed in the legislative bill, is not the same as the drug being abused in Grand Forks, it is a derivative of that drug.

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The Board of Pharmacy decided to include acetylfentanyl in Schedule I of controlled substances because the state crime lab has reported a small number of cases of acetylfentanyl abuse, said Mark Hardy, executive director of the Board of Pharmacy.

"We're just being proactive on that one," he said.

In the bill, fentanyl remains a Schedule II controlled substance, as Schedule I only contains drugs with no medical purpose, Hardy said.

The bill this session also includes an expanded definition of synthetic cannabinoids, which could be known as salts or synthetic marijuana.

"There are always permutations in these synthetic drugs, and we try to get ahead of that," Hogue said.

Synthetic drugs have also been investigated in Grand Forks, after the fatal overdose of 18-year-old Christian Bjerk in 2012.

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