Two people were charged Monday night with trafficking in fentanyl or a derivative of the drug, a potentially deadly substance that has been proven to raise the risk of drug overdose deaths across Kentucky since 2016. That specific charge hasn’t been made by the Owensboro Police Department since Oct. 12.
Jazzman D. Warren, 34, and Michael A. Green, 40, both of the 1900 block of McFarland Ave, were apprehended by both OPD and the Daviess County Sheriff’s Office at 9:30 p.m. Monday.
Warren was charged with trafficking in a controlled substance (carfentanil or fentanyl), tampering with physical evidence and possession of drug paraphernalia. Green was charged with trafficking in a controlled substance (carfentanil or fentanyl), tampering with physical evidence and possession of a handgun by a convicted felon.
A police report states that detectives executed a search warrant at the McFarland Ave residence. A female (Warren) came to the door, where detectives announced their presence. Warren then fled from the door, but returned shortly after. The OPD police report revealed that Warren opened the main door, but a detective’s hand had to go through the screen door to gain entry into the residence. Meanwhile, detectives witnessed Green running throughout the house and into the basement.
Throughout their search, detectives located several digital scales, a bag containing white powder residue, numerous small baggies containing residue, a small resealable bag floating in a toilet that contained suspected heroin and a 9 millimeter handgun located in a filing cabinet. The magazine for the handgun was found in a trashcan.
The police report stated that all evidence found at the scene was indicative of an ongoing trafficking operation.
OPD’s Public Information Officer Andrew Boggess said while the detectives did find a substance resembling heroin, it will take months before labs can determine whether synthetic opioids such as fentanyl or carfentanil — a fentanyl derivative originally manufactured as an elephant tranquilizer — were found in the batch of heroin.
“That’s one of the things that makes it [heroin] so dangerous. It’s being cut with fentanyl and carfentanil,” Boggess said. “People may not know what they’re taking, which could result in an unintentional overdose.”
County Attorney Claud Porter said state legislators have proposed to marry the two drugs into the same trafficking charge. Kentucky House Bill 333 states that if a Schedule 1 or Schedule 2 narcotic hasn’t been prescribed, it falls under the same regulations as fentanyl or a fentanyl derivative. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) defines Schedule 1 drugs as those having a high potential for abuse while offering no medical benefit to users, while Schedule 2 drugs are classified as drugs with a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or chemical dependence. Drugs in Schedule 1 and 2 are both considered dangerous. Schedule 1 drugs include heroin, LSD, marijuana and ecstasy. Schedule 2 drugs include cocaine, methamphetamine, fentanyl, methadone and Adderall.
According to OPD, HB 333 only affects heroin trafficking charges and not possession charges. Boggess explained that heroin and carfentanil are both synthetic derivatives of fentanyl. While many aspects prove they aren’t the same drug, the chemical compositions of both are similar enough. Placing them under the same trafficking distinction makes for a better — but not perfect — fit, and was the best method by which OPD was able to interpret changes made by state legislators.
“That change is based upon the two drugs having a close chemical composition,” Boggess said. “For something like that, we typically send it off for testing. The lab will test it [for carfentanil and fentanyl], and that will be the determining factor.”
The opioid epidemic has been prevalent across Kentucky, but hasn’t affected Owensboro and much of western Kentucky until recently. Boggess said OPD has seen a definite increase in local opioid use.
“It used to be something we’d never encounter,” Boggess said. “We are definitely seeing it more so now than we were a couple of years ago. There was a time opiates were extremely rare in this area, and we never dealt with them.”