A lawmaker’s proposal aside, Gov. Mike DeWine says the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl is “not an option” as state officials search for an alternate means of carrying out executions.
State Rep. Scott Wiggam, R-Wooster, on Monday began seeking co-sponsors for a bill to appropriate illegal fentanyl seized by police in drug busts for use in lethal injections of the condemned.
“Fentanyl is not an option,” the governor said Friday afternoon. “We do not believe it would pass constitutional muster. We do not believe it would be upheld by a court, so there’s really no reason to come forward with that proposal.”
Nebraska conducted the first execution in the U.S. involving fentanyl last year, with officials saying its supply of the painkiller was acquired legitimately from a licensed pharmacy. Illicit fentanyl has been responsible for thousands of drug overdose deaths in Ohio amid an opioid addiction crisis.
DeWine, a Republican, said he has met with Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, and House Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, about Ohio’s stalemate in conducting executions.
“There was a real fear, and I think it is a legitimate fear” that pharmaceutical companies would refuse to sell drugs to the state — for Medicaid patients, state prisoners and others — if their products were used in the state’s cocktail of lethal injection drugs, DeWine said.
The governor said he was uncertain if legislation would emerge this fall when lawmakers return to adopt another execution method, such as lethal gas.
DeWine has twice delayed the execution of convicted Columbus killer Warren Henness amid a federal court judge expressing concerns Ohio’s current lethal injunction protocol is cruel and unusual punishment. Ohio’s next two executions are scheduled for Nov. 13 and Dec. 11.
The governor also said Friday that he plans next week to announce further steps, which he declined to detail, to address gun violence and “make our communities safer in Ohio.”
Following the deaths of nine people in a mass shooting in Dayton on Aug. 4, DeWine asked lawmakers to enact a “red-flag” law to allow guns to be seized from people deemed dangerous following a court hearing and expanded background checks to include gun show sales and individual-to-individual transactions.
A survey by Ohio newspapers of state lawmakers found the “red flag” proposal has a chance of winning passage in the Senate, but faces an uncertain fate in the House.