Senator Barb Kirkmeyer urged her colleagues Tuesday to reverse a 2019 law that decriminalized fentanyl.
“Fentanyl dealers are killers, and the law should treat them as such,” said Kirkmeyer.
After making claims about President Biden and border security, Kirkmeyer turned her attention to what can be done here in Colorado to prevent future deaths.
“Here in Colorado, we are not powerless. We can do something right now: recriminalize fentanyl. The 2019 law approved by the Legislature and signed by Governor Polis was a grave mistake. Governor Polis has effectively admitted as much, now calling for stricter penalties on fentanyl,” Kirkmeyer claimed.
Contrary to the senator’s comments, fentanyl possession is illegal. The 2019 law she referenced reduced the charges from a felony to a misdemeanor.
“I don’t want to lock someone up who is a drug user and has a small amount of drugs that they use to feed their addiction. I want to get them help,” Adams County District Attorney Brian Mason told FOX31’s Rob Low.
Since 2019, Colorado has experienced the second-fastest growth rate in fentanyl deaths in the nation. In 2019, Kirkmeyer said our state had 147 fentanyl deaths. She said that number increased to 709 deaths in 2021.
A Data Desk analysis found this to be mostly true, with Colorado being one of six states to see a five-time increase in death rates since 2019.
“To put this in perspective, just 2 milligrams of fentanyl can kill. That is a mere two thousandths of a gram. So, 4 grams – the threshold for decriminalization established by the 2019 law – can kill thousands,” Kirkmeyer said in her release.
Data Desk reviewed drug seizures in the state and found that 151 pounds of fentanyl were seized by Colorado State Patrol in 2021. Using the DEA’s reference that two milligrams is enough to kill a person, this means the amount of fentanyl seized by CSP is enough to give 34.2 million people a lethal dose.
Michael Allen, the district attorney for El Paso and Teller counties, is also calling for a change to the law that went into effect in 2019. He said that change allows offenders off too easily and doesn’t effectively incentivize them to agree to rehabilitation.
Rep. Leslie Herod (D) who was one of the sponsors for the 2019 bill with Rep. Shane Sandridge (R) told FOX31 she’s not convinced reducing many drug possessions to misdemeanors was a mistake.
Herod said the goal is to craft laws that offer treatment and recovery to addicts while providing prison to dealers.
“We need to deal with the dealers who are providing this deadly drug into our community, and we need to throw the book at them. We need to get people who want treatment access to treatment so they’re not dying at the hands of this poison,” Herod said.