DENVER (KDVR) — A bill to make possession of a certain amount of fentanyl a felony in Colorado was signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis Wednesday.
The bill makes possession of 1 gram or more of any drug that contains fentanyl a felony, whether or not the person knew the deadly opioid was in there. The bill was passed during the final hours of the legislative session.
You can watch the bill signing on FOX31 NOW in the player above.
The County Sheriffs of Colorado, Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police and Colorado Fraternal Order of Police issued the following statement on the new law:
House Bill 22-1326 is one of the most important bills of the legislative session; however, we believe it also represents one of the largest missed opportunities of the 2022 session in protecting our communities from crime. The County Sheriffs of Colorado, Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police, and Colorado Fraternal Order of Police stood firmly and united in our call for strong, bold measures against the possession of fentanyl. Our coalition members advocated for a stronger bill to address fentanyl—one of the deadliest and most addictive of drugs harming our communities—while consistently supporting the important harm-reduction pieces in the original bill. The final bill contained some important provisions that will increase the tools available to law enforcement to address this crisis. While changes were made in response to our efforts to address Colorado’s current possession laws, the final bill did not go far enough to hold those possessing fentanyl culpable for the severity of this drug.
We are hopeful this new law will make a positive impact on fentanyl deaths and interrupt the fentanyl supply chain. While we continue to review the final legislation and prepare to implement this new law, our coalition believes it is important to note the following concerns moving forward. Our first concern is with the new “knowing” standard that was hastily added in the conference committee in the final hours of the session. That provision likely will put the probability of leveling felony charges upon those who possess 1 to 4 grams of fentanyl in question. The amendment creates a new expectation and obligation onto law enforcement to investigate cases to establish and prove that someone was not of the “mistaken belief” they had fentanyl. While law enforcement will do its part to investigate and pursue these cases, the charging of felony possession was made purposely difficult, if not unachievable, with the passage of the amendment.
In addition, the bill included a mandate for jails to provide medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to inmates, which includes providing drugs like naloxone. The bill only included state funding for MAT for two years, creating an unfunded mandate after this period that will be forced onto county-level taxpayers who fund local jails. We believe it is important for jails to be equipped to provide medical services; however, this will cost money in the future that many jails, especially in rural areas, do not have. We call on lawmakers to address this unfunded mandate as quickly as possible to ensure that this harm-reduction provision in HB1326 is successful.Public Safety Colorado coalition