Colorado lawmakers unveiled plans at the state Capitol on Thursday for legislation to increase penalties for fentanyl-related offenses.
Lawmakers said the bill, which will be introduced this week, is part of a larger legislative package to address crime and drug overdoses in the state. According to data from the state health department, more than 800 people died from fentanyl-related causes last year, up from 540 in 2019.
“Fentanyl is extremely deadly,” Gov. Jared Polis, who supports the proposal, said during a press conference Thursday. “It deserves different legal treatment than other drugs. I think that increased criminal penalties are a key part of our response, as well as better detection and prevention.”
Polis was joined by a bipartisan group of lawmakers who said the state needs to increase its penalties for fentanyl distribution. A law passed in 2019 made “personal possession” of the drug – or, possession of no more than 4 grams – a misdemeanor offense.
The new bill would make it a felony to distribute fentanyl that leads to a person’s death, but leaves the 2019 rule in place, a move that law enforcement groups said “falls short of protecting our communities.”
“We must re-establish firm criminal consequences for dealing and possessing deadly amounts of this dangerous drug. The bill’s provisions can and should do more,” said a joint statement from the County Sheriffs of Colorado, the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police, and the Colorado Fraternal Order of Police.
The bill also includes a $20 million investment for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to distribute Narcan, a drug that can reverse the fatal effects of an opioid overdose.
Rep. Mike Lynch, R-Wellington, said “it’s worth the experiment” to see if the bill can help reduce fentanyl deaths in Colorado.
This article was originally posted on Colorado lawmakers announce legislation increasing penalties for fentanyl offenses