DENVER (KDVR) — Colorado lawmakers revealed legislation to crack down on fentanyl, the powerful opioid driving a spike in overdose deaths in the state.
Officials announced the bill on Thursday. It had not been filed as of Thursday afternoon, but the measure will:
- Increases penalties for high-level dealers of fentanyl
- Will include an enhancement penalty for distribution resulting in death
- Will include medical-assisted treatments for low-level offenders
- Supports good Samaritan laws, which shield people calling 911 if they report an overdose
- Increases funding for fentanyl test strips
- Allows immunity for law enforcement and public health providers who test to ensure there’s no fentanyl in the drugs
In a statement on Wednesday, Attorney General Phil Weiser said the bill “is a much-needed stride forward to remove this deadly poison from our streets.” Weiser also urged the legislature to evaluate the penalties for fentanyl possession and to provide more resources to law enforcement agencies to investigate fentanyl trafficking.
Colorado has seen more than 1,500 fentanyl-related deaths since 2015.
Law enforcement officials have said no recreational drug is safe from being laced with the drug, which can kill in tiny amounts. It often laces other drugs like cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and even marijuana. Dealers are also putting fentanyl in fake prescription pills made to look like Oxycodone.
“The current form of this bill, unfortunately, falls short of the mark,” said Matthew Stoneberger, president of the Colorado Drug Investigators Association. “This bill still allows a person to
possess up to 4 grams of fentanyl and get away with just a misdemeanor ticket. That is enough
fentanyl to kill up to 2,000 people. It also provides no real support for law enforcement to combat
these drugs; no new resources for your detectives to pursue the drug traffickers causing the harm.”
The concern is that users will not get the rehabilitation and care they need to stop using the opioid, Stoneberger said. Dealers and distributors are not punished harshly enough to deter them from continuing their business, he said.