DENVER (KDVR) — More than 150 people signed up to testify Tuesday as a bill to combat the Colorado fentanyl crisis debuted for its first committee hearing.
The hearing for the Fentanyl Accountability and Prevention Act started at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, and with the large number of witnesses signed up to speak, it looked likely to continue for hours.
The bill proposes putting millions of dollars towards fentanyl test strips, naloxone, education and other prevention tools, but what has people divided is the part proposing tougher criminal penalties for possession.
The bill makes the unlawful possession of any material, compound, mixture,or preparation that weighs more than 4 grams and contains any amount of fentanyl, carfentanil or an analog thereof, a level-four drug felony.
Matt Riviere lost both of his sons to fentanyl poisoning in July 2021. His sons thought they were taking Oxycodone but ended up with drugs laced with fentanyl. After hearing his testimony on how he believes the bill can help other families from the pain he faces, lawmakers asked for his take on the possession and punishment portion of the bill.
“We think that 4 grams is way too much for personal possession — 4 grams, about the weight of a sugar packet, is enough to kill 2,000 people with fentanyl. That’s way too much,” Riviere said. “We understand people like my boys are going to make these choices and decisions, but to have that much in their possession, there’s got to be a greater story behind that.”
Infectious disease doctors shared concerns with the criminalization part of the bill along with mandating treatment for those caught with fentanyl-laced drugs.
“We see that the risk of incarceration and felony convictions leads to worse health outcomes for the vulnerable people in our communities,” said Sarah Rowan, an infectious disease doctor.
FOX31 had multiple crews listening to each story and angle presented as it continued on Tuesday evening and will continue coverage through the night.