Gov. Andrew Cuomo has made it clear that in 2020 his focus will be to push through hardline legislation making the sale and possession of fentanyl the same type of criminal behavior as other controlled dangerous substances in the state of New York.

While the overall number of overdose deaths in the state has declined, there’s been a dramatic increase in overdose deaths due to fentanyl. In 2016, fentanyl-based overdose deaths skyrocketed 124% and another 28% in 2017.

Fentanyl and its analogs – different synthetic forms – can be up to 100 times more potent than morphine. Compared to 30 milligrams of heroin, fentanyl can be just as deadly in as little as three milligrams, the Governor’s Office stated.

As a result, Cuomo will advance legislation to ban illicit fentanyl drugs, which will close prosecutorial loopholes, making the sale and possession of the substance illegal and subject to the same criminal penalties as other controlled substances.

Additionally, Cuomo plans to implement expanded access to medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder in “hard to reach” communities. Medication-assisted treatment entails using medications in combination with education and counseling to treat substance use disorders.

"The opioid epidemic is a public health crisis that continues to ravage too many communities across this country. In New York, we have taken aggressive action to combat this disease, and we are seeing results with the first reduction in opioid deaths in 10 years," Cuomo said in a statement. "Despite this progress, drug dealers have turned to lacing opioids and other illicit drugs with fentanyl analogs — a deadly synthetic opioid that current law does not ban. This two-pronged proposal will tackle that problem by banning these dangerous fentanyl copycats and providing treatment to people suffering from opioid addiction before it's too late."